How to Serve a Spouse With a Divorce If You Live Together

By Teo Spengler

Updated March 30, 2020

Stressed businesswoman with paperwork

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Divorce necessarily involves that the couple separates, but a physical move is not required. Couples splitting amicably, or those with minor children, may opt to separate by occupying separate parts of the home. This does not change the requirement for service of the divorce papers but can limit the available methods of service.

Living Together Separately

The date a couple separates can be important in a divorce, especially in community property states. But a hit-the-road-Jack departure is not required for a couple to be separated. In California, for example, the date of separation is determined by intent; it is the date when one spouse decides not to continue the marriage. A divorcing couple can live separately in one house.

Personal Service of Process

You cannot obtain a divorce without officially notifying your spouse about the divorce action by following your state's service of process rules. Generally, serving process requires that you enlist another adult to hand your spouse a copy of the court-stamped divorce papers. The person can hand your spouse the papers at his residence, office, or anywhere in between.

Substitute Service

Personal service is sometimes difficult. After a process server has made repeated attempts to serve someone personally, many states allow her to leave the papers at his office with someone in charge, or at his dwelling with another adult who lives there. When you are the other adult sharing a premises with your spouse, the latter option (substitute service at home) is not an acceptable one, given your status as opposing party in the divorce action.