What if My Spouse Avoids Service of Divorce Papers?

With a simple no-fault process and cities that were harder hit by the financial crisis a decade ago, the rate of divorce in Arizona has been higher than the national average for quite some time now. If you’re going through a divorce in this state, you can take heart in knowing you are not alone. More than 10 of every 1,000 men and women in the state were divorced in the last year. However, in spite of divorce being a common procedure in Arizona and beyond, there are some myths about the process that remain. One of those myths is the notion that if you avoid the service of divorce papers, your spouse can’t divorce you. Read on for more information about the service of process and how that affects the proceedings.

Methods of Service of Process

When filing for divorce in the state, you are required to serve your spouse with papers that announce your filing in the court and give your spouse the opportunity to respond to the filing. Among the documents that must be served are the petition for the dissolution of marriage and the summons. Once served, your spouse has 20 days inside the state to file a response with the court and 30 days if he or she lives outside of Arizona. You have 120 days after filing papers with the court to complete service of process. Failing to do so may result in dismissal of your case.

The Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allow for the Service of Process in divorce cases to take place in a number of ways, including:

  • Service by acceptance: Through this method, you simply give the divorce papers to the other party, along with an “Acceptance of Service” form that your spouse signs in front of a notary and returns to you. The documents can be given in person as you file the documents with the clerk, in person in the presence of a notary, or through the mail. Most banks provide notary services and you can also find a notary by searching for this service in your area on the internet or in the local yellow pages.
  • Personal service by a sheriff or constable: With this method, you contact the sheriff’s department in the area where your spouse lives and arrange for them to serve the papers. It may take two to three weeks for the sheriff’s department or constable to perform service.
  • Personal service by a process server: You hire and pay a registered process server to serve the papers at work, home, or some other location.
  • Service by mail in which you send the papers with return receipt requested and a restricted delivery so that your spouse is the only one who can sign the receipt. Wait for the green receipt to be returned to you, indicating that your spouse has received the summons and petition. Remember that the clock starts ticking on your spouse’s response time to the service when he or she signs the receipt, not when the receipt is in your possession.
  • Service by publication, in which you publish a copy of the summons in the newspaper with a statement that informs your spouse as to how he or she can get a copy of your filed petition and other documents.

The experienced attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can provide guidance on the method of service that might be the most practical in your case.

When Service By Publication Can Be Used

As explained by Pima County, service by publication can only be used when you are unable to find your spouse or your spouse is avoiding service of divorce papers, and this method can only be used to serve the petition for divorce and for legal decision-making and parenting time issues. Service by publication cannot be used for issues concerning child support, spousal maintenance, division of marital property and debts, or any other issue which requires personal jurisdiction.

Maricopa County Superior Court adds that this method of service is only to be used as a last resort, once you have exhausted other efforts of service. In order to use service by publication, you must obtain permission from the judge in your case to do so by filing a motion and showing that you have made reasonably diligent efforts to use other forms of service. Some reasonably diligent efforts that may be included in the affidavit to support service by publication are:

  • Verification that your spouse is not at any of his or her previous addresses.
  • Talking to family, friends, or former coworkers who may have your spouse’s current address.
  • Internet searches of the white pages, voter registration records, obituaries and other public information records for your spouse’s address.
  • Hiring a private detective to search for your spouse.
  • Proof that your spouse is intentionally avoiding service.

If you are permitted to serve your spouse by publication, you must have the summons published at least one a week for four consecutive weeks. Service is considered complete 30 days after the initial publication. The attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can advise you of other requirements when using this method of service.

Other Alternate Methods of Service

If your spouse is intentionally avoiding service of divorce papers, the judge may approve alternate methods of service beyond publication in a newspaper. One of the methods that may be approved is securely posting the summons and petition on the door of your spouse’s residence while also mailing a copy to his or her last known residence or work address. It is important when determining an alternate method of service to seek permission from the court to to provide service in this manner as the service will not be valid without court approval.

Let Us Help

If your spouse is avoiding service of divorce papers, it may require more effort on your part to ensure that the process is completed, but it does not mean that you will be unable to proceed. The attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can explore all of the options for service of process and help you to ensure that the process you are using is recognized as valid by the court. For more information or a case evaluation, contact us online or by calling 602-252-1968.


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