In order to commence a divorce proceeding against your spouse only personal service is permitted. This means that the summons for divorce must be given to your spouse directly. The summons for divorce must be served by a person over the age of 18 and authorized under the state or country to make service of process. One could hire a licensed process server, have someone who knows your spouse give the summons to the spouse or you can go with someone and identify your spouse. In order to prove that the person served was the defendant (your spouse), the process server is often supplied with a photograph of the defendant. If your spouse consents in writing that the summons for divorce was received, that would be sufficient as proper service whether it is done in this state, another state or a foreign country. All affidavits of service must be notarized.
Service outside of New York must be made in the same manner as it would be within New York. In general one would hire a licensed process server or one could use anyone authorized to serve the summons in the state in which it is served. In general it is wise to contact the Sheriff in the county in which your spouse lives to effectuate service.
Service made outside of the United States must be made by a person who is authorized to serve a summons inside the country in which the summons is being served and that person must sign an affidavit of service in front of the American Consul. One could use a resident from New York who is going to the country where service is going to be made. That person should make a copy of the entry stamp to the country where service is going to be made and the entry stamp when that person returns to the United States. This will prove that this person was actually in the country where service was made on your spouse.
If you do not know where your spouse is located the court will allow alternate means of service. Before the court will allow alternate service you must show that due diligence was made to find your spouse.
In order to show due diligence one should do the following:
1. Contact the Department of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines. Send a written request to each branch of the United States Armed Forces asking if your spouse ias an active member. Give your spouse's full name ant date of birth.
2. Go to www.nydmv.state.ny.us/forms/mv15pdf and print out and then fill in the form. Mail it to the address listed on the form.
3. Make a request to the United States Post Office and request your spouse's change of address. Your request should be sent to the Postmaster of the last known address of your spouse.
4. Search the local telephone directory
5. Request the voter registration information from the Board of Elections in the county where you live and request the voter registration information they may have for your spouse including the address at which your spouse registered. One can ask for a five-borough search if one live in New York City. Write to the Manhattan Board of Elections and ask for this type of search.
After the above is completed an alternate means of service may be requested from the judge. This service must be designed to give your spouse notice that a divorce proceed is being commenced. Service could be ordered to a relative of your spouse, the place of employment of your spouse but most often the court will ask you to publish notice in a newspaper.
The notice of the matrimonial action must be published in one newspaper in the English language, designated in the order as most likely to give notice to the person to be served, at least once in each of three successive weeks.