All divorces begin with two key steps. First, one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. Second, the petition is officially served on the other spouse. In some divorces a difficulty arises immediately at step two. The location of the other spouse is unknown, and despite the best efforts, the spouse cannot be found.

This scenario is not uncommon. For various reasons, one spouse may conceal themselves to elude service and frustrate the progress of the case. The hiding spouse may have relocated to another state or even left the country. In such cases, the court has the ability to allow service by publication. This is only granted when all other options have been exhausted.


What is service by publication?

Like the name implies, service is accomplished through publication. Instead of the spouse receiving the divorce petition in person, a summons by publication is published in the newspaper. This public notification informs the spouse that he or she has been named as a party in a divorce case and must respond. If no response has been made after 60 days from the first date of publication and 90 days has passed since the petition has first filed, the court can end the marriage.

Can service by publication be used when a spouse lives in another state?
Service by publication is a last resort and can only be used if the current address of the spouse is unknown and the spouse is intentionally evading service. If the spouse simply lives in another state, a professional process server or sheriff is the best choice for service. Service by publication is much more costly than other service options and should only be used when all other attempts to locate the spouse have failed.

What must I try before service by publication?

Before the court will grant service by publication, a diligent and thorough search must be made for the other spouse. In fact, the court will require that an Affidavit of Diligent Search be filed, detailing the specific actions taken and the results of each action. Such actions would include visiting all last known addresses, calling all last know phone numbers, speaking with all known relatives and friends, consulting phone books, performing online searches, searching social media, as well as other methods.

What are the limitations of service by publication?

If service by publication is used, the court will only be able to divide property and debts located in Washington. A parenting plan can also only be issued if Washington already has jurisdiction over the children. The court may not be able order child support or spousal maintenance in the divorce.

It is very important that all necessary requirements for service by publication be followed. It can be challenged by the other party, even years later.

If you feel you may need to explore the option of service by publication in your divorce, you will want to speak with a Washington divorce attorney immediately. An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to explain to you all the requirements of service by publication and all your options if your spouse cannot be found.

Meet with a divorce lawyer today.

Divorce Lawyers For Men™ attorneys help husbands and fathers going through divorce. Meet in person with a Washington divorce lawyer who will be happy to explain the divorce process to you. Call us today at (877) 866-7393 to speak with an attorney who understands your situation and can offer real help.

If you would like more information on the divorce process, or to take the best divorce resources with you in print, please check out our free divorce guide for men or contact our office to meet with an attorney about your particular circumstances.