This is a method of last resort. If you do not know where your spouse lives or works, and you cannot find that information out, divorce by publication will be your only choice of service. You must prove to the Court that you have tried to locate your spouse and cannot find him/her. Using service by publication places special limitations on your divorce case, because the Court will not have “personal jurisdiction” over the Defendant. You will not be able to get certain kinds of relief, such as child support and alimony, as part of the divorce. However, if the Defendant later acknowledges service, gets served by the sheriff, or files an Answer to the divorce, then your case will no longer be limited by the restrictions that apply to publication cases.
The most important document for a divorce by publication is the Affidavit of Due Diligence. In the Affidavit of Due Diligence, you will explain to the Court the steps you took to try to find your spouse. You must make a reasonable effort to find your spouse prior to filing the divorce.
After you file the forms and if the Court grants permission, the judge will then sign an Order of Publication. You will need to pay the cost of publication ($80.00) at the Clerk’s Office. The Notice of Publication will then be published in the county’s official legal newspaper four times (usually four weeks in a row). The Defendant will then have 60 days to file an Answer if s/he wants to contest the case. To be on the safe side, you should also mail a set of all the papers, called the “service copy,” to the Defendant’s last known address. Be sure to put enough postage on it, and be sure to list a return address so that the post office can return it to you if they are unable to deliver it.
After the Notice of Publication has been published all four times, an Affidavit of Publication will be returned to the Clerk of Court. You must bring this Affidavit of Publication with you to your hearing in order to prove that service by publication has been completed. Usually the judge will then sign the Order Perfecting Service (part of the three-part form listed above) at the hearing, showing that the Court has reviewed the service and finds that it was done properly.
If you later find out where your spouse lives or works (before the case is over), your spouse will need to be served by the Sheriff’s Department or your spouse must acknowledge service.