Divorce hypotheticals: help please?

A couple divorce situations in Pennsylvania.

  1. Guy files. Spouse avoids service, doesn’t pick up registered mail, etc. What happens next?

  2. Guy files. Spouse does nothing actively to participate. What happens next?

  3. Guy files. At some point in proceedings spouse behaves irrationally (cookoo for cocoa puffs type of behavior). What happens next.

Standard disclaimers. You are not my attorney, heck I could afford way better and these are interesting hypotheticals anyways.


In my jurisdiction, which is not Pennsylvania, it is sometimes possible to serve process by publication. There are some pretty specific requirements for exactly how this much be accomplished. This confers limited jurisdiction to the Court, in that the Court may grant a divorce and award child custody, but may not divide marital property or award child support, because those issues require personal service of process.

In Scenario #2, in my state, if the defendant has been properly served, she has 30 days to respond. Once that time runs, if she has not responded by filing something with the court, she is not entitled to any further notice. Plaintiff may proceed to have a hearing, at which plaintiff must testify and produce at least one corroborating witness to establish the grounds for a fault based divorce. If the Court finds the proof is sufficient, the Court will grant the divorce and all of the other relief requested in the petition (assuming personal service of process, otherwise see above for limitations regarding process by publication). In my state, it is not possible to obtain a no fault divorce without the consent of both parties. If Plaintiff is unable to prove he is entitled to a fault-based divorce, the parties will remain married.

In Scenario #3, again limiting to my comments to my state, it really depends on what exactly the defendant does, and whether children are involved. If defendant misbehaves in open Court, or fails to comply with a temporary order, she may be cited for contempt, and may go to jail for a (usually short) period of time.
If she appears to have some sort of mental illness, she may be committed or required to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. If she is found to be incompetent, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to protect her interests. Plaintiff will have to consider what he wishes to do next very carefully. Insanity is a ground for a fault based divorce, but if a divorce is granted on that ground, Plaintiff may be ordered to pay for Defendant’s care. If children are involved, a Guardian ad Litem may be appointed to protect their interests as well…and it would not be the same lawyer acting as GAL for the incompetent Defendant. Court appointed GALS are paid by the parties, so the litigation will get considerably more expensive.

Your state probably does things a little differently than we do, so you’d need to check with an attorney licensed to practice up there to see how such things are handled in PA.


I can only speak to this one generally. It can be a pain in the ass for someone to avoid service of process when they are dedicated. At best, though, it acts as a delaying technique. Service by publication usually only works when someone is not in the jurisdiction and cannot be found. You have to assert, under penalty of perjury, these things.

The best thing to do is call her up and tell her to pick up her fucking mail or else you will have the process servers go to her work or somewhere else that she won’t want to be seen getting served with paperwork. Be careful to not threaten because divorce forms typically give a person a million different ways to allege violence.

You might eventually have to pony up some money for a private process server who are in the business of serving people who don’t want to be served.

And, frankly, if it’s an issue, I’d save myself the stress and just do this. A good friend of mine is a server, and she’s kind of amazing. It’s like watching a live Misson:Impossible going to work with her.