Divorcing A Military Or Imprisoned Spouse

Tips for Service of Process on Deployed Service Members

Tips for Service of Process on Deployed Service Members

  • Find out from the member, or their commanding officer, when the member has scheduled leave.  A good time to attempt personal service is during scheduled leave or holidays.  To accomplish service in this way, you can either have the member voluntarily accept service or you can ask the court to appoint a private process server


Long-Arm Service by U.S. Certified Mail 

  • If permitted by the jurisdiction where the military member is located, you can accomplish service through the long-arm service process.  Even though the address may be an Army or Air Force Post Office (APO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO), it is still U.S. mail, and again, certified mail and “return receipt requested” services are available.

    • First, check here to see whether the country where the service member is located permits service by international mail.  If service by mail is permitted, follow these steps: 

  • Step 1: Obtain a certified copy of the petition and the citation from the Clerk of Court. The filing party is responsible for obtaining a certified copy of their pleading or other document from the Clerk of Court to provide to the other party. There is a minimal fee associated with obtaining a certified copy from the court.

  • Step 2: Send the certified copy to the out-of-state party by registered or certified U.S. Mail, return receipt requested. Long-arm service by registered or certified U.S. mail must be properly addressed to the party at their place of domicile or postal address and mailed with proper postage. A proof of delivery receipt or a delivery confirmation is required, so you must request a return receipt. 

  • Step 3: When service is accomplished by registered or certified U.S. Mail, an Affidavit of Long-Arm Service must be prepared and filed with the Court, once the return receipt is received. When service was accomplished with registered or certified U.S. Mail, the Affidavit of Long-Arm Service must state that the filing party mailed process to the defendant, enclosed in an envelope with proper postage and properly addressed; identify the contents (citation and certified copy of the petition) of the envelope; and the date it was deposited in the U.S. mail. The U.S. Mail return receipt card (green card) must be attached to the affidavit.

    • Note: If you try service by mail, but do not receive a return receipt, prepare a second set of documents.  Place them in an envelope addressed to the military member, with the return receipt affixed and postage paid. Then, place that envelope into a larger envelope, and address the outside envelope to the military postal officer for the APO or FPO where the military member is located. Include a letter to the postal official that explains your original attempt to obtain a return receipt. Request that the Military Post Office (MPO) personnel obtain the member’s signature before to delivering the envelope to the member and send the return receipt back to you, as permitted under military policy. If the member refuses to accept, ask that the MPO personnel endorse the document “refused” and return it to you. As long as you have the receipt or label number for the certified mail you sent, you can go to the United States Postal Service website at www.usps.com to track the status of the package (or envelope).


Alternative Methods of Service

  • If service of process by mail is not permitted, a variety of alternative methods may be available depending on the specific state and foreign law involved, including:
    • service by letters rogatory to a foreign authority. This method is legally complex and requires a verification that the country in which the member is located will comply with the letters rogatory.  If you think you need to use this method of service, you should contact an attorney for help. 

    • personal service by a foreign agent (foreign attorney or process server). This method is expensive and complicated.  If you believe it is necessary in your case, contact an attorney for assistance. 

    • service by a foreign authority pursuant to a treaty or convention.  For more information, head to the Service Section of the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.  

Back to top