How To Get Divorced When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse: Alternative Service of Process

Alternative Service of Process

Alternative Service of Process in DivorceIn general:  every party has the right to notification of a divorce being filed against him/her requiring “Service”.  This is called “Service of Process in a Divorce”.  Each state has its own service of process requirements in a divorce.  Typically when a spouse cannot be located, the filing party must be a legal resident in the city/county and state for the minimum required time to file in that state. When you can’t locate your spouse to serve him/her with the divorce complaint, you can serve the other party by what is call, “alternative service of process.” This is an alternative procedure that is used when your spouse cannot be located.

  • Often you may serve a spouse you cannot locate by publication or posting where the spouse last resided.
  • Keep in mind any time frames that must be met for the alternative service to be accomplished (such as how long a Summons may be good for, how long or how often a Notice would need to be posted or published)
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to locate the spouse (due diligence) and proof of this must usually be provided to the Court (typically by Affidavit detailing the steps taken to locate the spouse).
  • In general,  if the spouse is unable to be located, there may be some issues that the Court isn’t able to fully decide without the other party’s acknowledgment of the matter and/or participation (such as support, property, etc.)

Additional State Specific Resources

Alabama –  An Alabama attorney site with some information on the process and publication of notice in the newspaper for some circumstances (John A. McBrayer).

California –  Statutory Law for Service:

District of Columbia –  the DC Bar has a pamphlet “Help Yourself – Serving Court Papers in D.C. – Divorce and Custody Cases) (AND) Statutory Law for Service:

Florida –  AVVO includes FL specific details on the topic (AND) Statutory Law for Service: FL Rules of Civil Procedure (also includes form of Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, etc.)$FILE/Civil.pdf

Georgia –  GA Legal Aid site (I Have Not Seen My Spouse For Years and I Do Not Know Where My Spouse Is. Can I Still Get a Divorce?)  (AND) LegalZoom – this topic is related to GA, and also has some decent general information (AND) from a GA attorney site Rhonda Blackwell Siler – Georgia Uncontested Divorce Online Statutory Law for Service: GA Code Title 9 (9-11-4. Process)

Iowa –  Iowa Courts Pro Se Instructions including instructions on Service where the location of the spouse is not known Statutory Law for Service: per “”

Massachusetts –  Law Office of Richard B. Kell (attorney website) – this is related to MA, but also has general info on obtaining service of process on absent spouse (AND) and MA Law Help site link to MA-specific info –

Maryland  People’s Law Library of MD  See “What Happens if Service is Not Made” topic (AND) from a MD attorney’s blog Keith Blair Bartnik, PA .

Michigan –  Michigan Legal Help site with explanation of how to serve if do not know location of the spouse (AND) Michigan attorney site with info on the entire MI Divorce process, including if there is a “missing spouse” (Scott Marshall Neuman, P.C.)

North  Carolina  NC Law Help – pro se pamphlet with Qs and As at the beginning – see page 3 “What do I do If I do not know where my spouse is?”  (AND) Coredell l Cordell (an attorney website) – this is related to NC, but has information related to the topic Statutory Law for Service: Rule 4. Process.,_Rule_4.html

New Hampshire –  New Hampshire Rules of the Court – Family Division – Domestic Relations – Notice of Legal Actions (AND) Statutory Law for Service: Chapter 458, Section 9 Venue; Notice

New Jersey –  Legal Services of New Jersey – see info beginning on page 57 for steps on serving the Defendant whose address is unknown New Jersey – Getting a Divorce in New Jersey When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse.  See also NJ Rules.

New York –  New York –  Getting a Divorce in New York When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse   New York Courts FAQs page – what if I cannot locate my spouse?  (AND)  (AND) info/explanation from

Ohio –  Ohio Legal Services pamphlet with related details on current address for spouse not known – beginning on page 7

Pennsylvania –  If you can’t locate the other spouse for service within 30 days – or 90 if the spouse lives out-of-state – you will need to go back to the Prothonotary and have the complaint reinstated. You then have 30 days to serve the reinstated complaint using one of the four methods described (certified mail, acceptance of service, service by competent adult, or sheriff’s service) –   Statutory Law for Service of Process:

Texas –  Texas- How To Get Service of Process Over a Spouse That You Cannot Locate in Texas.  See Also : Statutory Law for Citation by Publication:  and additional information from a TX attorney site (Law Offices of Thomas P. Jackson)

Virginia –  VA Legal Aid manual on pro se divorce – see information beginning on page 3 –  and VA attorney site that offers divorce by publication in VA (Michael Ephraim)  and  Statutory law for Service of Process:  / – Statutory law for Order of Publication:

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