Courts, Legal Basics

questions & answers

Question: How do I serve my wife with divorce papers.


Rules 40 through 43 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure govern your situation.  Which rule applies depends on where your wife lives. If she lives within the State of Arizona, you will want to use Rule 41. You must serve the summons, pleading and other documents together. In general, you can serve the respondent personally, or leave copies at her residence or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion living there with her. You also have the option of serving her through an authorized agent.

Furthermore, you can serve her by certified mail, return receipt requested, so long as you pre-pay the charges for that delivery. Service in this manner is only effective if your wife herself signs the receipt.

If your wife lives in a different state or country, you will have to use Rule 42. This rule also provides for direct service, as well as service by certified mail, but the specific requirements (as well as those contained in Rule 41) can become somewhat technical, and would be too complicated to explain in an online response. You need to recognize at least two potential pitfalls, however, concerning out-of-state service:
(1) personal jurisdiction; and (2) manner of direct service.

First, "personal jurisdiction" is the authority of the court to take action over a specific individual. If you intend to drag your wife into an Arizona divorce, and ask an Arizona court to enter orders that affect her property rights, or require her to pay family support, you have to show that she has exercised some type of minimum contacts with the State of Arizona itself.
For example, you could show that she has lived in Arizona recently, or that she has conducted business here. If you are unable to show that your wife has engaged in some type of minimum contact with the state, but you yourself have resided here for at least 90 days, you may be able to persuade an Arizona judge to dissolve your marriage and restore you to "single" status, but you will not be able to secure the other types of orders (e.g. child support, spousal maintenance, property and debt division) that normally accompany a divorce case.

If you share any minor children, you must also be aware of interstate child custody rules, particularly if the kids have lived in a different state for over six months and no Arizona court has ever entered a custody or visitation order concerning them.

Second, if you serve your wife with process in a different state, and choose to hire a professional process server, you must take care to select someone who is authorized to serve that process under the law of the state where service will occur. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with Rules 40 through 43 to the best of your ability and consult with a lawyer (or even hire one) if you seek a detailed answer to your specific circumstances.


  • How do I serve my wife with divorce papers.




  • Please select your county of residence below.



  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Maricopa County Bar
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program


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