It many scenarios, a couple that is separated and the spouses are no longer living together cut all communication, and may not even know where the other resides. This can make it extremely difficult to serve divorce papers, and subsequently delay the divorce process. So what are the steps to take if you cannot locate your spouse?
If you are unable to directly serve your spouse due to not knowing their whereabouts, you may request permission from the judge to publish a notice of the divorce in the local newspaper or post a notice at the courthouse. This is known as a Motion to Serve by Publication or Posting, and can only be accepted as a method of proper service under these circumstances. However, this includes proving to the judge that you have made substantial efforts to locate and serve your spouse and that serving by publication or posting is the last resort left available. The hope is that your spouse will see the notice, as you have now put it out in the public forum, where it can reasonably be assumed that they will see the notice. It shows that, on your part, you have taken every conceivable step to serve and notify your spouse of your intent to initiate a divorce.
Something to keep in mind is that there is a timetable for this method of service. After you file your divorce papers with the court, you will have 60 days to serve your spouse. If you are not able to file your Motion to Serve by Publication or Posting within this period, you must enter a motion to extend the time. If your initial court hearing is scheduled before the 60 days is up, you can request the extension of time while at the hearing. If you don’t, the case may be dismissed altogether, and you risk having to start your case all over again.
You should begin to make efforts to find your spouse before you file, but doing it after works as well, just remember the window of time you have available. You have to be able to show that you put in the utmost effort to locate your spouse when you request permission to serve via publication. Judges will usually require that a notice be published once a week for three weeks in a couple of newspapers, providing that at least one newspaper is a legal newspaper.