Dedicated Attorneys & Proven Results Since 1980

Your options for serving divorce papers in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Blog, Divorce

A key part of the divorce process occurs when your spouse receives a copy of the divorce petition. Every state has specific requirements for permissible service, and it helps to understand your options before you file.

There are several ways to serve your spouse with divorce papers in Pennsylvania.

Personal service

Personal service is the most common method of serving divorce papers. This process involves handing the papers directly to your spouse. In most cases, the person serving your spouse with the papers must be over the age of 18 and not a party in the divorce.

Certified mail

Sending the papers through certified mail with a return receipt provides you with a paper trail and proof of delivery. You can include the return receipt with the documentation to the court as proof of service. This method requires your spouse to sign for the mail. If they refuse to accept delivery, you may need another option.

Sheriff or process server

Sometimes, the county sheriff will handle the divorce paper service. Local process servers also handle in-person service when you want a neutral party to serve the papers. If you have any reason to worry that your spouse might avoid service, consider this option. Law enforcement and process servers often have greater success when an individual resists service by other methods.


When every other means of service fails, or you cannot locate your spouse, Pennsylvania offers a provision for service by publication. Publish a notice of the divorce in the local paper according to the court’s timeline and duration. Most courts only accept service by publication as a valid alternative when you exhaust other methods.

There were more than 31,000 divorce cases filed in Pennsylvania in 2021. When you decide to file, choose your method of service carefully.