Divorce proceedings have different guidelines that vary depending on the state in which the parties reside. When serving divorce papers to a spouse, the involved parties need to understand the legal procedures necessary according to the state. Distance can be a factor that makes divorces more complicated than they already are. The party to serve the divorce papers must follow state guidelines for a smooth separation process. Here are some essential facts and steps on how to serve divorce papers out of state.

Do I have Jurisdiction?

When California residents file for a divorce, the first crucial move would be determining the appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce. Jurisdiction within a court is the determination of authority to hear and conduct legal cases. For family law cases such as divorce, California courts need to have Jurisdiction over the following:

  • Subject matter – The court’s authority to impose judgment on the type of case
    • For example, family courts would not have the jurisdiction to hear a case regarding a parking violation.
  • Personal Jurisdiction – the court’s authority over the involved parties in the case

How to Serve Divorce Papers to a Spouse that is Out of State?

After jurisdiction is applied to the case, the petitioning party must notify their spouse of the divorce. This policy is required in all the states and has to be done through a legal serving. In most cases, serving is conducted in person and cannot be done by the petitioning party. For out-of-state servings, servers can deliver papers by mail. However, the server must be over the age of 18 and not involved in the separation at all. The filer has the additional options of either hiring:

  • Process server
  • Local law enforcement

What is a Process Server?

A process server is a person hired to deliver legal documents to the individuals named in an action. The server is responsible for ensuring that the involved parties are notified of the legal actions taken against them by delivering the paperwork in a timely manner. A process server’s role includes using given information to locate the individual. Regardless of whether the party accepts the document or not, they will be considered as served by law. The benefits of hiring a legal server in an out-of-state divorce will ensure your divorce papers are served, and specific state guidelines are met.

How Local Law Enforcement Can Help With Serving a Divorce Out of State?

When serving divorce papers in another state, there is the option of enlisting local law enforcement to serve the documents to the legal spouse. This option is done by contacting the local sheriff’s office that corresponds to the location and state of the party to be served. The local law enforcement would then serve the divorce papers within the 30-day time frame following the filing by the petitioner. The minimum fee for handling legal documents through this method is around $40; however, the prices may vary depending on the state.

Who Else Can Serve My Divorce Papers?

If hiring servers is not an option, the petitioning party may have someone else serve the papers, as long as the individual meets the criteria to serve. The requirements to serve divorce papers across state lines include the following:

  • Must be over 18 years of age
  • Must be a member of a “disinterested party,” meaning they may not be directly involved in the case
  • Can not be the divorcing spouse
  • Serves the papers within 30 days of the divorce being filed by the petitioner

After jurisdiction is granted, the divorce papers are to be served to the spouse within 30 days of filing. When serving divorce papers out of state, the petitioner can hire legal servers or utilize an uninvolved adult individual to serve the papers for them.

What is Considered an Improper Service?

When divorced papers are not served according to the state guidelines in which it is being served, it is regarded as improper service. Improper service can qualify through a wide variety of circumstances that depend on the situation. If it can be proved that the divorce papers were never correctly served to the divorced spouse, then the court may not proceed with the case.

If the papers were served, but are not signed by the partner, then a divorce by default will proceed with or without the signature. Proof of service form must be filled out and submitted to the court to verify that the divorce papers were properly served. If the divorce papers were improperly served, the divorced partner would have to verify with proof that they were not present when the server claimed to have served them. Proof of verification may include:

  • Receipts from places such as restaurants, bars, flights, etc
  • Testimony from a third party
  • Any evidence that proves the served party was not present at the time of serving

Suppose verification can be made that improper service was imposed when delivering the divorce papers across state lines; the courts cannot proceed with the case.


Q: Can I serve the divorce papers myself?
A: Across the states, divorce papers are not to be served by an involved individual. The typical procedure includes hiring a server or having an adult of “uninterest” to serve the papers.

Q: Who can I hire to help?
A: Typically, family lawyers are hired to help with divorce proceedings. Private lawyers, arbitrators, and private judges may also help with documents, disputes, and the separation of belonging.

Q: Can I still file for a divorce if there is no jurisdiction from the state of California?
A: No. The state of California does not have the right to proceed with any case that no jurisdiction is granted.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been looking to get a divorce in California, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.