First of all, in a simple. low-cost, uncontested, no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, divorce papers do not get “served” in the classic sense. Serving papers in any legal action means nothing more than handing Court-related documents to a party to the legal action. In a low-cost divorce in PA, instead of the defendant spouse (that is the person against whom the divorce had been filed) being served, the defendant must simply sign documents. Accordingly, it is the signature that counts. Therefore, the defendant can receive the papers to sign by mail (from the lawyer or from the plaintiff for whom the lawyer filed the divorce) or by anyone who can and will get those documents to the defendant. Once again, in a basic, cheap no-fault divorce, it’s not HOW the defendant gets the paperwork, it’s that the defendant SIGNS – and of course – returns the papers, ultimately, to the plaintiff’s lawyer for filing in Court.
In a divorce wherein the defendant is not cooperative – and that is not a cheap PA divorce, but a very expensive one – the defendant, who is not about to be nice and sign, would have to be served. That takes us back to the original question: Who can serve divorce papers in a contested Pennsylvania divorce? The answer is clearly set forth in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. Most people know that officers of the law can serve papers and most lawyers still pay the County Sheriff or a constable or other official process server to serve divorce papers. And of course, your money would be needed to pay those persons. But those same rules just as clearly allow any competent adult person (18 years of age or older) to serve divorce papers. Hold on now. There are exceptions. The plaintiff may not serve the defendant and vice-versa. Also, persons who are related to or employed by the plaintiff or the defendant may not serve papers. So, for example, a girlfriend or boyfriend may serve papers but a party’s mom, dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, etc may not.
Please keep in mind that the above explanation of who can serve divorce papers applies only to very expensive, contested divorces wherein the defendant is not cooperating and will not sign. In a low-cost PA divorce, ONLY signatures will work and how the defendant get the papers to sign does not matter at all.