How Can I Serve My Spouse with Divorce Papers If He/She Is Out of State?

If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage you will need to go through the legal process required to get a divorce. Although each divorce follows its own unique process, there are some steps common to all divorces. To begin any divorce in the State of Tennessee you must first file a Petition for Divorce in the county where both parties reside if both parties are Tennessee resident. If both parties are not Tennessee residents you may file in the county where you are a resident. Immediately after the Petition is filed it must be served on the Respondent (your spouse). If your spouse does not live in Tennessee you may be wondering “How can I serve my spouse if he/she is out of state?”

Before a divorce can proceed, and certainly before it can be finalized, the court must be satisfied that the Respondent is aware of the proceedings and has had the opportunity to participate in the process. The formal name for this requirement is “service of process”. Service of process requires you to serve the Respondent, using one of several acceptable methods, with a copy of the Petition for Divorce and the Summons. The Summons is prepared when the Petition is filed and serves to officially inform the Respondent that the Divorce has been initiated and that the Respondent has a limited number of days to file a written Answer to the Petition.

The following methods are allowable to effectuate service of process in Tennessee:

  • By a deputy sheriff in your county or another Tennessee county (the preferred method)
  • By private process in Tennessee or outside the state, using a friend or relative or other adult
  • By the Secretary of State when the defendant lives out of state
  • By certified mail, in Tennessee or outside the state
  • By publication in a newspaper

Failing to provide the court with proof that service of process has been accomplished using an acceptable method will result in a delay in your divorce being finalized even if your divorce is a simple agreed upon divorce. If your spouse lives out of state, service of process can be accomplish using several of the allowable methods; however, you should consult with an experienced Tennessee family law attorney to ensure that your spouse is properly served and to expedite the process.

If you have additional questions regarding service of process for your Tennessee divorce, or about the divorce process in general, consult with the experienced Tennessee family law attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael