Filing for Divorce When Your Spouse is Not in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statute 25-312 says that as long one spouse has been an Arizona resident for 90 days, you can file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) in Arizona, regardless of where you were married. It is not necessary for your spouse to be in Arizona as well.
Service of Process
After filing a divorce petition with the clerk of court at your county’s Superior Court, the next step in the divorce process is “service of process.” Service of process is legal notice to one spouse of the other spouse’s intent to obtain a divorce. In order for the service of process to be legal, the court must receive proof of the notice being served to the other spouse.
You have 120 days from the date you file your petition with the clerk of court to serve notice on your spouse. If you do not serve notice within this timeframe, your case may be dismissed.
If you and your spouse both live in Arizona and you know your spouse’s location, service of process can be accomplished through hand-delivery (when there is no domestic violence) or delivery by a Sheriff or Constable, certified mail, or licensed process server. There are also several options for service of process on an out-of-state spouse, including certified mail and service by a certified process server. If you do not know your spouse’s location, service by publication may be the only option.
AZ Statewide Paralegal has experience in using all of these forms of service of process and can assist you whether your spouse is in Arizona or in another state or country — or even if you do not know where your spouse is.
Acceptance of Service
If you know your spouse’s location and your spouse is cooperating with the divorce process, the simplest form of service of process is by acceptance of service.
One option for acceptance of service is for you and your spouse to go to the filing counter at the courthouse where you filed the court papers. Your spouse will sign an Acceptance of Service form in front of the Clerk at the filing counter, who will notarize the signature. (Your spouse must have a valid picture I.D. with him or her for the Notary Public.) Alternatively, you and your spouse can meet before a Notary Public other than the Clerk at the courthouse to have your spouse’s signature on the Acceptance of Service notarized. In this case you will need to deliver the notarized original to the court.
Acceptance of Service can also be accomplished through the mail; this may be necessary if, for example, your spouse lives in another state. Mail a copy of the court papers to your spouse, including the original Acceptance of Service form. Ask your spouse to sign and date the Acceptance of Service in front of a Notary Public and return the signed and notarized original Acceptance of Service to you.
Service of Process by Mail or Licensed Process Server
If you know your spouse’s address, you can also have your divorce petition served through Registered Mail with Restricted Delivery, whether in or out of Arizona. By using this type of delivery service, only your spouse can sign the receipt card. The post office will return the receipt card, which will also include the date that the documents were delivered, to you. You will file the receipt card with the Clerk of the Court as proof of service.
Another option available in or out of Arizona, if you know your spouse’s location, is to hire and pay a process server to hand-deliver the documents. This option is usually only needed when the spouse is not cooperating, such as by refusing to sign for registered mail. Process servers must be certified and licensed by the Supreme Court of their state in order to serve legal documents on someone. The process server will give you a signed Affidavit of Service which indicates that service has been accomplished and the date. You will file the affidavit with the Clerk of the Court as proof of service.
Service of Process When You Do Not Know Your Spouse’s Location
If you do not know where your spouse is, you may be able to serve him or her by publishing a notice in a newspaper once a week for four consecutive weeks. Service by Publication can be used to serve a divorce petition only when there are no issues of child support, spousal maintenance, division of marital property or debts, or any other issue requiring personal jurisdiction.
This type of service is considered a “last resort” by the court. According to the Maricopa County Superior Court, “Before the Court will accept Service by Publication, you must have made every reasonable effort to find the other party (or parties) and to give actual notice of this case by personal service of the required documents. You will be required to state, under penalty of perjury, the steps you have taken to try to locate the other parties and if the Court is not satisfied that you have taken all reasonable steps, your case may be delayed until the Court is satisfied all such steps have been taken” (superiorcourt.maricopa.gov).
This means that you must first attempt to locate your spouse, and that you will be required to prove to the court that you tried by providing details of your efforts and their results. The Superior Court of Pima County gives several examples of resources for locating your spouse for service (sc.pima.gov):
- Telephone book
- Postal service
- Employ independent process server
- County jail
- State prison
- Previous addresses
- County voting lists
- Previous employment
- Motor vehicle records
- County assessor’s office
- Utility companies
- City directory
- Family members [and friends]
If, after a diligent search, you are unable to locate your spouse, you can proceed with service by publication. To do this, you submit a form to a newspaper that publishes legal notice. Publication must be in a newspaper in the county where you filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce). You may also be required to publish notices in the county of your spouse’s last known residence.
At the end of the publication period, the newspaper will give you newspaper clippings showing the ad as it was published and an affidavit showing the dates publication took place. You will need to file the affidavit and clippings with the court along with an Affidavit of Service by Publication. Service is considered complete 30 days after the first time the notice is published.
After Service is Complete
After service, your spouse has a limited time to file a Response. If served in the state of Arizona, your spouse has 20 calendar days after service to respond. If served outside of Arizona, your spouse has 30 calendar days after service to respond.
AZ Statewide Paralegal offers professional legal document preparation services. We have decades of experience preparing documents for divorces in Arizona. By using our service you can avoid the expense of a high priced attorney so that you can focus your financial resources on helping your family make necessary transitions after your divorce. There is no need to worry about deadlines and properly completing the forms. We know what to ask and provide this service to hundreds of clients each year. Contact our office in Tucson, Phoenix, or Mesa today so that we can walk you through the divorce legal document preparation services we offer. Click here to get started online.