Once a divorce complaint is filed it must be served on the opposing party before the matter can proceed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1930.4 discusses acceptable methods of service for all domestic relations matters. The complaint must be served by personal service or certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. If personal service is accomplished, the person effectuating service should complete an affidavit of service indicating when and where the opposing party was served. Personal service can be carried out by any adult that is not a party to the action. The Sheriff can be contacted to effectuate personal service for a fee. There are also numerous process server companies that will effectuate service for a fee. Alternatively, the opposing party can opt to sign an Acceptance of Service form which serves to waive any defects of service under the rules.
Service in a divorce matter generally must be accomplished within 30 days of when the complaint was filed. The exception is where service will be done outside of the Commonwealth in which case 90 days is permitted. If service is not completed within the applicable time frame, the complaint must be reinstated. After the reinstatement, a new time period begins to run. However service is accomplished, proof of service should be filed with the court. If service cannot be accomplished, the court can be petitioned to allow service by publication. The petition for service by publication must describe all the efforts made to find the other party by other means. If the petition is granted, notice would be published in a legal publication and a newspaper of general circulation in the county of the other party’s last known residence.