6 Ways to Serve Your Spouse in an Arizona Divorce

When people learn they need to serve their spouse with paperwork to move a divorce forward, sometimes they panic. (It’s almost like they want to get a divorce without the other person ever finding out. Unfortunately, that’s not how the system works.)  People need to have notice that a case is pending against them.  Luckily, there are a lot of options for service.


1. Serve Your Spouse by Way of Acceptance


If you and the other party are civil despite getting a divorce, service by acceptance is the easiest method to have them served.   Under “service by acceptance,” you personally give or have the court papers mailed to the other party for their review and signature. You need to provide your soon-to-be-ex an “Acceptance of Service” form, and then the other party needs to fill out the form and sign it in front of a notary public or a Clerk of the Superior Court.


Once that is done, the Acceptance of Service must be filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

This method is best used when you know the other party will fill out and send in the Acceptance of Service form.  With any indication that the individual might not comply, it would be best to try another method of service.  There are not any Court fees associated with this method of service.


FYI-Arizona’s 60 day waiting period starts running as of the date that the responding party signs the Acceptance of Service in front of a notary.



2. Serve Your Spouse by Mail or Commercial Delivery Service


Under this method, you need to send the court papers through a delivery service like FedEx, UPS or via certified U.S. mail.  (Yes, there’s more Brown can do for you.) The other party has to be the person that accepts the package and signs for it. You’ll then need to file a copy of the proof of mailing, as well as the receiving individual’s signature.


Before you choose this option, you need to make sure you do a couple things.  First, the delivery service needs to provide either a signed paper receipt or electronic receipt showing delivery. Once you receive that, you will need to file a Notice with Superior Court indicating how you provided service and when you provided service. Attach a copy of the proof of delivery provided by the delivery service.


There aren’t any court fees associated with this method of service, but you can expect fees from the delivery service.



3. Serve Your Spouse by Way of Process Server


If you don’t think the previous two methods will work, your next best option is to hire a certified process server.  We’ve covered this aspect in some detail previously, including an interview with a process server.  However, here are a few things of note:


First, pick a registered process service company.


Next, understand that the process server doesn’t work for the Court; they work for you.  That means you should expect to be the one who pays.


In terms of payment, it can get expensive to hire a process server.  (The other party might try and avoid service.)  In these situations, you might need to pay for multiple attempts, for after hours and/or short notice service.  The fees can build quickly.  It’s important to give as much information to the process server as possible (including a picture of the other party) so they can make arrangements to try and complete service on the first try.


The process server completes process once the paperwork is handed over to the other party.  At that point, the process server should inform the court that service took place, but check with the company you’ve hired to be sure.



4. Serve Your Spouse Using the Sheriff


If your process server didn’t work out or you don’t think that would be a good option, you can try process by way of the sheriff.  You also can use this method to serve an individual who’s incarcerated.


Unlike a process server where you can arrange for off-hour service, sheriff service takes place Monday-Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (in Maricopa County). Additionally, in Arizona, this method can take up to three weeks for service to be complete. (This is usually much longer than it takes mosts private process servers to serve someone).


With this service method, there’s the added impact of having a sheriff be the one to serve the papers.  Many people will be uncomfortable with this method of service, and they could take offense.  Out of all the methods of service, service by law enforcement is the one most likely to foster conflict with your case.



5. Serve Your Spouse by Publication


Service by publication is the most expensive and involved type of service.  It’s most often used if you don’t know the current address of the other party.  With this method, you must publish the summons in your family law case in a certain type of periodical (for a certain number of times a week over a period of time). You also must convince the court you’ve taken every reasonable step to find the other party and have them served via one of the other methods.


You’ll need to cover the cost of publishing (or you may apply for a deferral or waiver).   The notice will need to be placed into a “newspaper of general circulation.”  Most city newspapers have a section set out for such notices.



6. Serve Your Spouse by Way of Alternate Service


If the individual is some approximation of a ghost and a ninja, all of the other methods may fail.  In this situation you can file a Motion for Alternative Service and ask the Court to allow you to serve notice by other means. This is very difficult to complete and is an absolute last resort.   Before you come up with a revolutionary means of service, here are a few that won’t be accepted: smoke signals, telepathy, sky writing, and a brick through your soon-to-be ex’s window.


As always, it might be best for you to consult with an experienced attorney before moving forward with a divorce, even if you think you can handle it.  At the very least, an attorney can give you some recommendations for process servers that will get the job done.  Trust me: you don’t want to be the one asking the court to allow you to serve notice through telepathy.

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