Can You Serve Divorce Papers to a Post Office Box?

Divorce papers (also known as divorce petitions or summons) must be served to the other party involved in the divorce. 

A sheriff or a professional process server typically does this. The purpose of serving divorce papers is to ensure that both parties are officially notified about the divorce and are given an opportunity to respond to the legal action.

While personal service is the most common method used to serve divorce papers, most states allow you to serve divorce papers by mail, including to a P.O. Box. 

Why Must A Spouse Receive Notice of The Filing of a Divorce? 

A spouse must receive notice of the filing of a divorce for several important legal reasons. Providing notice ensures that the legal process is fair, transparent and respects the rights of both parties involved. 

Here are the key reasons why a spouse must receive notice of the filing of a divorce:

  • Due Process: Serving divorce papers formally informs the other party that a divorce has been initiated. This notification is essential to uphold the principle of due process and the right to be heard in court. It ensures that no one is taken by surprise when legal actions are taken against them.
  • Jurisdiction: Serving divorce papers establishes jurisdiction over the case. In legal terms, this means that the court has the authority to hear and decide on the divorce matter. The court must know that the party being served has been made aware of the proceedings to proceed with the case.
  • Ensures Fairness: By serving divorce papers, both parties have equal access to information and legal processes. This promotes fairness and transparency in divorce proceedings, as both sides can respond, present their arguments, and protect their interests.
  • Timelines: The process of serving divorce papers sets specific timelines for the response. Once the papers are served, the other party generally has a specific period to respond. This helps to keep the legal process moving forward efficiently.
  • Documentation: The act of serving divorce papers generates a record of notification. This documentation is crucial in case the served party later claims they were unaware of the proceedings or were not properly informed. Having a record of service helps avoid disputes about whether proper notification was provided.
  • Court Orders: Once divorce papers are served, the court can issue orders related to temporary child custody, support, and restraining orders if necessary. These orders can help maintain stability and protect the interests of both parties and any children involved during the divorce process.
  • Starting the Clock: Serving divorce papers marks the beginning of the legal process. It starts the countdown toward various deadlines and court hearings, helping the case progress in a structured manner.
  • Preservation of Assets: Notice prevents one spouse from taking unilateral actions that might impact shared assets or property during the divorce proceedings. This helps ensure that assets are preserved and not unduly depleted or transferred without the other spouse’s knowledge.
  • Child Custody and Support: Divorce often involves child custody, visitation, and support decisions. Providing notice allows both parents to participate in these decisions, contributing to the children’s best interests.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The legal process benefits from transparency and accountability. Providing notice ensures that legal actions are not conducted in secret and that all parties are accountable for their actions.

How To Serve A Divorce Petition to a P.O. Box

Most states allow for the service of divorce papers by mail, including a P.O. Box. This is done by having the defendant fill out an “Acknowledgment of Service” form.

Here’s how a statement acknowledging the service of a lawsuit typically works:

  • Service of Process: Once a lawsuit is initiated, the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) must notify the defendant of the legal action. This is known as the “service of process.” The plaintiff must ensure that the defendant is properly served with a copy of the lawsuit documents, which usually includes a summons and a complaint outlining the claims being made.
  • Acknowledgment of Service: The defendant has the option to acknowledge service voluntarily. This means that instead of being formally served by a process server or other official, the defendant signs a document acknowledging that they have received the lawsuit documents. This document is the “statement acknowledging service.”
  • Content of the Statement: The statement acknowledging service includes information such as the parties’ names, the case number, the date of receipt, and the defendant’s signature. By signing the statement, the defendant confirms that they have received the documents and are aware of the legal action.
  • Filing with the Court: After the defendant signs the statement acknowledging service, it is filed with the court handling the lawsuit. This filing serves as official documentation that the defendant has been properly served and is now aware of the legal proceedings.
  • Effects of Acknowledgment: Acknowledging service does not necessarily mean that the defendant agrees with the claims made in the lawsuit. It simply confirms that they have been notified of the lawsuit and are aware of their legal obligations to respond within the specified time frame.
  • Response Period: After acknowledging service, the defendant is given a certain period of time to respond to the lawsuit. This response might involve filing an answer, a counterclaim, or other relevant legal documents.
  • Default Judgment: If the defendant fails to respond within the specified time frame, the plaintiff might be able to request a default judgment, which means the court could rule in favor of the plaintiff due to the defendant’s failure to participate in the legal proceedings.

Overall, a statement acknowledging the service of a lawsuit is a procedural step that ensures the defendant has received proper notice of the legal action against them, and it is entirely legal to send this to a P.O. Box.


Q. My Spouse is concerned that he will be embarrassed by being served with divorce papers at his job. Is there another option?

If the spouse consents to sign a statement acknowledging receipt of divorce papers and waives the need for formal service by a process server, it becomes unnecessary to have the papers served by the process server. 

Q. What if my spouse refuses to accept the papers from a P.O. Box? 

If the spouse declines to sign the acknowledgment of service form, formal service will be required. A sheriff or a professional process server typically does this.

What To Read Next


Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

Recent Posts