According to the latest statistics on divorce rates in America, there were 787,251 divorces in 2017. Although this figure does not include several states in the U.S., it still sheds light on the prevalence of marriage annulments in the country.
Every divorce begins with a plaintiff spouse filing a petition for divorce against their spouse. The plaintiff spouse must then serve the defendant spouse with a notice of the petition filing. In most cases, the attorney of the plaintiff has the responsibility of ensuring that the defendant spouse is served with a copy of the petition as well as the summons to appear in court.
Sometimes, the plaintiff spouse can’t locate the defendant. It could be that the defendant has relocated to another city without notifying their spouse of their forwarding address. Sometimes, the couple has lived apart for so long that they’ve completely lost contact.
So what do you do when you can’t locate someone you intend to serve divorce papers? Well, the court can allow you to complete the service by publication.
In this definitive guide, we tell you all you need to know about divorce by publication, as well as how to go about the process. Read on to learn more.
What Is Divorce by Publication?
Divorce by publication refers to the process of notifying a defendant spouse of a divorce petition by publishing a notice in a newspaper or publication approved by the court. The defendant spouse may not actually receive the notice, but the fact that you published information regarding the lawsuit publicly is enough to accomplish the notice requirement. The divorce process can thus begin after the publication.
How to Get a Divorce by Publication
If you have no idea how to file for divorce by publication, you’ve come to the right place. Below are five guidelines to make the process easier for you.
1. Know the Laws of Your State
The procedures of divorce by publication differ from state to state. Each state has its local statutes and court rules stipulating how to serve someone you’re divorcing to ensure that the process is valid. The legality and conclusion of the divorce also depend on the laws of your state.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state regarding divorce by publication, so you minimize confusion once the process starts.
2. Do Your Best to Locate the Missing Spouse
Generally, divorce by publication should be the last option. Both the court and your attorney will encourage you to get divorce papers to your spouse through any other avenue. Only after you’ve tried everything and have been successful can you opt for divorce by publication.
So how do you go about locating your spouse? Here are two suggestions:
Use Social Media
Unless your case involves domestic violence, experts recommend that you use the help of your attorney to locate your spouse. Going online can also be very helpful, especially in this age of social media. From the information on their favorite social media pages, you may be able to get an idea of where to find them.
You could also ask relatives or friends of your space whether they have your spouse’s contact information or current address. Keep in mind that no one should pressure you into disclosing why you’re looking to contact your spouse.
Utilize Professional or Diligent Searches
Sometimes, it’s not easy to locate your spouse through self-search. In such a case, you can consider retaining the services of a seasoned private investigator. Typically, the investigator you hire will diligently try to locate the defendant spouse by examining search reports from such resources and agencies as:
- The U.S. Military
- The telephone directories and Board of Elections of your county
- The DMV
- U.S. Postal Service
- The internet
- Visiting the defendant’s last known address
Hopefully, the resources above will give you a good idea of where your spouse may be. If, however, the search is unfruitful, you can move on to the next step.
3. Submit Reports to Court
After you’ve been unable to locate your spouse, now’s the time to submit a comprehensive search report and findings to the court. The reports you submit will serve as exhibits to the Affidavit of Plaintiff. From this affidavit, the judge will determine whether or not you did a diligent search to locate your spouse.
The court will also require that you provide a sample of Summons with Notice as it’s going to appear in the relevant print publications. Also, you must provide the original divorce papers you filed with the office of the Clerk.
4. Publish the Notice in the Appropriate Newspaper
Most states require that a notice of divorce must be published in a popular newspaper or publication. The newspaper or publication must be readily available and widely distributed in the defendant’s last known county or city of residence.
In some states, the notice must appear once a week for at least three consecutive weeks. This gives the defendant enough chances to see the notice and take necessary action. Only after the completion of the three weeks will the service by publication be complete.
5. Observe the Time Limits on When the Notice Should Be Served
In most states, petitioners have 60 days from the day they file their divorce papers to serve their spouses. That’s enough time for you to file a Motion to Serve by Publication. If, however, you’re unable to do so, try filing a motion for extension of time.
Failing to observe the time limits can lead to the dismissal of your case, forcing you to start from the beginning once again.
Getting a Divorce By Publication Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
When a spouse you intend to divorce is nowhere to be found, you don’t need to panic. Getting them served with divorce papers by hand or mail isn’t the only way to kick start the divorce process. Service by publication is still a perfectly legal option for you and anyone else wondering how to get a divorce from a partner they can’t trace.
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