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Pennsylvania Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Pennsylvania

When one spouse wants to call it quits but cannot find his or her missing partner, or when he or she is hiding, divorce by publication comes into play. Divorce by publication happens "only after a judge has been convinced, based on a sworn declaration, of the serving party's inability to find the Defendant after trying hard. Service by publication is commonly used in a divorce action to serve a spouse who has disappeared without a leaving a forwarding address..."

When the Respondent cannot or will not be found (and, therefore, cannot be served the divorce papers by the Sheriff), the Petitioner must conduct what is termed a "diligent search" followed by Service by Publication.

Pennsylvania's Search Requirements and Process

Pennsylvania courts require a good faith effort by the Petitioner to prove that he or she has made a genuine search for his or her missing partner. This search entails:

  • checking the post office, "including inquiries pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 39 CFR Part 265" for any forwarding address of the missing spouse;
  • questioning "relatives, neighbors, friends and employers of the defendant";
  • making examinations of "local telephone directories, voter registration records, local tax records, and motor vehicle records."

In order to be eligible for a "Divorce by Publication", you must complete and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This document clearly outlines all of the actions you have taken to locate your spouse, essentially proving to the court that your spouse absolutely can't be found.

>>> Download the Affidavit of Diligent Search

If you actively pursue locating your spouse through the methods outlined in the Affidavit of Diligent Search, and still can't locate your spouse, then a "Divorce by Publication" is your likely method of getting a divorce.

Filing for Divorce by Publication in Pennsylvania

If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner files a Motion for Service by Publication, a notarized statement explaining the efforts by the Plaintiff to locate the missing spouse, with evidence to show that he or she in fact made a "diligent search."

When the court is satisfied with the effort, it Issues an Order of Publication, which gives the Petitioner permissions to publish a Notice of Publication. The notice is published in a county legal publication and it should also be placed in "a local newspaper of general circulation within the county of the last known address of the missing spouse."

After the notice is published, the missing spouse is considered served. If he or she does not respond to the notice, the divorce proceeds as a default.

Pennsylvania Service by Publication is described in Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 430.

Copyright Notice: These Pennsylvania divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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