ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan. Since 1963, the U.S. Postal Service has assigned those five-digit numbers to areas to speed up mail delivery. If you know someone’s address, you can serve them divorce papers. That is one of seven ways to serve process.

I Know Where You Live

The law requires a person who is the subject of a divorce proceeding to be notified. This makes sense, because your spouse will probably want to prepare a defense if you are divorcing her under fault grounds. It also makes sense to keep her informed, so she does not cross-file after you and your attorney have already begun proceedings.

If you know where your wife lives, you have half a dozen ways to fulfill legal service of divorce papers under Code of Virginia § 8.01-293:

  1. Request that a court officer (Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff, investigator) serve process to your spouse at her home (or her business, if you know that address)
  2. Hire a process server to hand the papers to your spouse at her house
  3. Ask “any person of age 18 years or older and who is not a party or otherwise interested in the subject matter in controversy” to deliver the papers into the hands of your spouse where she lives 
  4. Any person delivering the divorce papers (see #1, 2, 3) can also hand the papers to a member of the defendant’s household who is 16 or older
  5. The divorce papers can be mailed to your spouse’s known address by Return Receipt, meaning someone at her home must sign for delivery 
  6. Process may be served by posting a legal copy of the papers on your wife’s front door and mailing a legal copy by first class mail

Most of those are fairly cut and dried. A process server will add to your total divorce costs, but not by much. Let’s revisit #3, shall we? Just who would you enlist to serve divorce papers on your wife? You cannot ask family or friends to do it, because they have an interest in the “subject matter in controversy.”

You have to get someone you can trust to perform the service. You may consider a neighbor’s reliable neighbor, a trusted friend of a coworker, a local merchant who regularly delivers to your spouse, or a college student (a junior or senior) in need of some cash. Be willing to pay for the service, no matter who you select, but make absolutely certain the job gets done.

You Don’t Know Where Your Wife Is. What Now?

Suppose, though, after you two separated, she moved out and moved … away? You truly have no idea where she is. You don’t even know where she works, so you cannot serve process at her place of employment. What to do?

Virginia thought of that. The law provides for a “diligent effort” to be made to locate anyone who is to receive legal service. That is a bit vague, but that works to your benefit. You and your attorney can provide the court a list of people you contacted, attempting to locate your spouse:

  • Her friends
  • Her family
  • Last known employer
  • Coworkers

After a “diligent effort,” you may place a notice in a local newspaper. Not just any local paper; it must meet the requirements of § 8.01-324. Publications are acceptable if they:

  1. Have a bona fide list of paying subscribers;
  2. Have been published and circulated in printed form at least once a week for at least 50 of the preceding 52 weeks;
  3. Provide general news coverage of the area in which the notice is required to be published;
  4. Be printed in the English language; and
  5. Have a periodicals mailing permit issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS)

So, you cannot place an ad in your church’s quarterly bulletin, but even pennysavers and shoppers may make the grade. Obviously, a more prestigious newspaper like The Virginian Pilot, Roanoke Times, and Bluefield Daily Telegraph would be better placement.

The law does not require notice to be placed in out-of-state newspapers. If you suspect your wife has hi-tailed it to North Dakota, you can place the notice in Virginia’s own The Farmville Herald and consider your legal obligation fulfilled.

If you know where your wife is and expect the papers to provoke her … “displeasure,” let’s say … you may want to keep significant physical distance. Then, too, in serving process in a pandemic, minimal contact may be helpful; the US Postal Service may be your strongest ally.

With a call to The Firm For Men at (757) 383-9184 or when you contact us online, you can connect to dedicated attorneys ready to handle your Virginia divorce. We work exclusively with Virginia’s men to preserve their rights, protect their finances, and secure their futures. And our ZIP code is 23462.