Getting a divorce is a civil matter that begins when one party to a marriage files a Complaint for Divorce with the court. Like all civil matters, the filing of this complaint is followed by a requirement that the other party to the matter—i.e. the spouse—be served the summons. While most of the time this is a relatively simple process, in some cases, the spouse to be served cannot be located. If you are filing for divorce and cannot locate your spouse, service by publication may be something you need to consider. Here’s an overview of what you should know and how a divorce attorney can help—

What Is Service of a Divorce Complaint By Publication?

When a defendant in a divorce case cannot be located, the only option for serving them the divorce papers may be a divorce by publication. Divorce by publication occurs when the plaintiff files their notice for divorce in the local newspaper. If the defendant does not reply to the notice after a certain amount of time, then a divorce will be granted even if the defendant does not participate in the legal action. 

Divorce By Publication: The Process

While it may be tempting to jump straight to publishing the notice of divorce in your local paper and expediting the process of terminating your marriage, the court requires that you first conduct an exhaustive search for your spouse. This might include taking your spouse’s last known employer, traveling to their last known address (or sending a letter there), contacting family members and friends, looking at credit card statements (if you have access) to identify locational spending, and more. At the end of the search efforts, you will have to sign an affidavit saying that you conducted a diligent search to the best of your abilities.

Once you have conducted your search, you will be legally allowed to move forward with divorce by publication. After you have published your notice of divorce in the paper and ensured that it has run for the required amount of time, the judge will grant your divorce. 

How to Prove to the Court You’ve Conducted a Thorough Search

Remember, you will need to sign an affidavit stating that you conducted a thorough search. You may need to prove that you visited your spouse’s last known address, contacted known family members or friends, conducted an internet search, used social media, or otherwise took steps to genuinely try to locate them. An attorney can help you to prepare all necessary documents if requested by the court.

Reach Out to a Divorce Attorney in Massachusetts Today

Wanting to divorce your spouse but not being able to locate them is frustrating. Fortunately, the law does provide an avenue for getting divorced when a spouse is missing. If you are considering divorce by publication, get legal help to ensure that the process is conducted accurately. For the support you need, contact Attorney Heather M. Ward today at (617) 903-8955 or online.