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How Do I Serve My Spouse with Divorce Papers in New York?

Filing for divorce is a big step, and it's just the start of the legal divorce process. Whether you and your spouse agree it's the right move or – at the other extreme – you don't even know where your spouse lives, you need to provide them with notice of the divorce. 

New York courts want to give both spouses every opportunity to have a say in their divorce case. Therefore, you must make every effort to serve your spouse.

Plaintiff vs. Defendant in New York divorce

In a divorce case, the two parties involved are known as the Plaintiff and Defendant. The Plaintiff is the party who initiated the action by filing for divorce and is, therefore, seeking to dissolve the marriage. The Defendant is the person either contesting or accepting what the Plaintiff alleges in their petition. 

Most times, both parties will need to negotiate a settlement. This may include decisions on alimony, property division, child support, and other matters related to the marriage dissolution.

How to serve divorce papers in New York

In New York, divorce papers may be served in several ways:

  • An unrelated person age 18 or older delivers the papers to the defendant.
  • The papers are sent via certified mail directly to the Defendant’s home address; the Defendant signs and returns an acknowledgment form.
  • A qualified professional process server personally hand-delivers the documents.
  • A notice of the divorce proceedings is published in a designated newspaper.

Using a private process server to deliver divorce papers is important and usually the best course of action, as it ensures that the defendant has received proper notification of the proceedings and is aware of their rights in the matter. While formal service of process adds to the divorce cost, it also allows for proof that the defendant was properly served (via a proof of service form submitted by the process server). This acknowledgment of service may need to be presented in court.

Publication is typically used only when a defendant cannot be located or served using any other means, as it is not seen as the most reliable way to successfully serve notice.

Where to get help

Many people think an attorney is the only place they can turn to for help. While you could use a divorce lawyer to help you, you could also turn to Hello Divorce. We offer affordable plans to give you the support and guidance you need to not only file your divorce petition but also serve your spouse. We can also provide you with access to legal coaching and other professional divorce help, should you need that assistance.