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Can I Serve My Own Divorce Papers in New York?

The thought of personally handing your spouse divorce papers can feel empowering. But it is not legal. All states have their own rules about legal service methods, but they typically do not allow a plaintiff to directly serve a defendant.

Proper Service of Divorce Papers

We’ve established that you cannot serve your spouse directly, with one exception.

New York allows a plaintiff can give the defendant the divorce papers only in cases where the defendant will not contest any aspect of the divorce (custody, support, property division, etc.) and will return the Affidavit of Defendant signed and notarized.

In all other cases, divorce papers must be served on the defendant. You have multiple options on how to properly serve the papers. Invalid service will jeopardize the divorce proceedings.

Divorce papers can be served on a spouse by any of the following:

  • Neutral party at least 18 years old and spouse signs the Acceptance of Service
  • Certified mail with a return receipt
  • Licensed process server
  • Your local sheriff

Service to Unreachable or Missing Spouses

If all these methods fail, the court may allow service via publication. In a 2015 case when the defendant could not be located, a New York court allowed a plaintiff to serve the defendant in a private message on Facebook.

Once served, the defendant will have 20 days to respond. If they are out of state, they will be given 30 days. If a spouse refuses to answer the divorce, the plaintiff can request the judge to grant a divorce by default. The judge may grant the terms outlined in the divorce petition.

Proper Service Is Time Limited

Papers must be served within 120 days from the date the papers were filed in the county clerk’s office. If that does not occur, the defendant can move for dismissal, without prejudice. If good cause is shown, the court also has the authority to provide a time extension.

Length of Divorce Process Varies

Divorce can be completed in three months or less if both parties agree on all divorce terms and there are no complications. A dissolution that starts amicably can turn quite contentious if disagreements develop. These cases can take six months or more to resolve. Complex circumstances can extend some divorces beyond a year. New York typically does not allow a divorce to be bifurcated. This means that spouses cannot be declared legally single while hashing out financial or custody terms.

Work with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer

When you work with the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, the benefits go far beyond handling details like the timely filing of all documentation. Experience and knowledge give us the insight to know when to negotiate and when to litigate.

Our attorneys are dedicated to ensuring your rights are protected during and after the divorce:

  • Protect your rights to your children
  • Evaluate what is marital vs. separate property
  • Notice red flags that your spouse is hiding assets
  • File for temporary orders during the divorce process
  • Petition for protective orders when necessary
  • Ask for spousal support to be provided during the divorce
  • Determine whether additional child support is warranted
  • Argue for the need for spousal maintenance post-divorce

Divorce is always an emotional undertaking. We remain objective, helping you to make better decisions. You can have peace of mind knowing that we are in your corner for each step in the process. Building an effective legal relationship during the divorce is helpful down the road should you need help enforcing a court order or modifying custody or support.

Schedule a consultation with us by calling (845) 605-4330 or sending us a message online.

Want more helpful information about divorce? Listen to our podcast Divorce Stories, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and more.