How do I proceed with the service by publication?
Every divorce begins with one party filing a petition for divorce against another party in a court of law. After the filing, the court will notify the defendant spouse, most of the time via a process server. This is sometimes done by postal mail service but the main method is by a process server. After having served the documents to the appropriate party, the person or agency which served the papers must file an affidavit with the court to verify that they have delivered the document.
The Service by Publication can only be used as a last resort. In the State of New York, a good faith effort to find the defendant must be met and the judge satisfied that every effort to find them has been exhausted. This must be sworn to in a legal affidavit by the serving party. Certain documents must also be presented to the court along with the affidavit, to prove the person wishing to serve the Publication has performed due diligence in attempting to locate, such as providing agency reports of inquiry that show negative results in the locating the missing spouse.
The following agencies are just a few of the places where searches can be done and records of those searches obtained for the courts:
Department of Motor Vehicles: You can obtain the defendant’s “Driving Record Abstract”
US Military: You can obtain search reports on the defendant from the Defense Manpower Data Center
Internet Search: You can visit the websites to search for your spouse, Intelius, Public Background Checks, or other public data search engines. If you receive any data from those searches, you are expected to purchase any available reports and contact each number listed to verify those numbers do not belong to your spouse. The cost of an Intelius report is between $2 and $5.
Visitation of Last Known Address: You must swear in your affidavit that you have attempted to contact your spouse at their last known address. This simple document can be obtained from any office which provides forms and documents for those wishing to represent themselves.
You can also contact Voter’s Registration offices, cellphone companies, and the last known places of the defendant’s employment. If the condition of good faith has been met, your Service by Publication request will be reviewed by a judge and permission granted. Only at that time can a Service by Publication be filed.
Services by Publication must be printed in popular newspapers or other well-read publications which are readily available to the public and in the last known city or county of the defendant’s residence. That may or may not always be in your own current location.
Each state has different rules regarding how the conditions of a Service by Publication meets the legal requirements. In the state of Georgia, the Publication notice must appear four times in the first 60 days after filing and each Publication must be 7 days apart from each other. In New York, there is certain language that must be used, items that must be included in the Notice and other requirements.
It is not quick and simple and, in fact, can be quite a confusing process. The downsides to representing yourself in filing Service by Publication is that not only is it confusing as well as time-consuming, it is expensive in court filing fees, search fees, agency fees, and publishing fees. If mistakes are made or requirements not properly met, the process can be stalled or must start over again wasting both time and money. Legal language is also something to consider when attempting to self-represent, do you understand it, can you use it?
It is always best to allow attorneys to handle legal matters of this nature. They know the system, the process, and possess the knowledge of the intricacies of law and what it takes to see cases to completion. It is always advisable to seek their expertise.