What is Service by Publication for Divorce?
If you have done your due diligence in trying to locate your spouse but have not been able to do so, you will still be able to file for a divorce by utilizing Service by Publication. Divorces obtained by Service by Publication are often referred to as “divorce by publishing it in the newspaper.” While this is partially true, the actual process is much more involved than just running a notice in your local newspaper. This is a method of last resort and will disqualify you from receiving certain types of relief, such as child support or alimony, since the court will not have jurisdiction over your spouse. Because cases involving Service by Publication can be difficult in their filing requirements you will likely want to retain an attorney for representation.
For proper service by publication in a Georgia divorce case, several documents must be prepared and filed with the court, which include but are not limited to:
- Petition for Divorce (also called Complaint for Divorce)
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
- Affidavit of due diligence search
- Notice of Publication
- Order of Publication, Return of Service, and Order Protecting Service
- Child Support Worksheet (if required)
- Report of Divorce, Annulment or Dissolution of Marriage
- Domestic Relations Case Filing Information Form
- Domestic Relations Case Final Disposition Information Form
In order to provide verification of a “diligent search,” the petitioner must prove all or some of the following to the court:
- That they checked the telephone book and directory assistance in the area where the Petitioner lives;
- That they checked the telephone book and directory assistance in the area where the Respondent is last known to have lived;
- They asked family/friends who may know the location of the missing spouse;
- They checked with the post office for the forwarding address of the missing party;
- They checked the records of the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;
- They contacted the department of motor vehicles for registrations in the name of the missing spouse;
- They checked with any other possible sources that might lead to a current address, such as landlords and prior employers.
If such a good faith search has not yielded results, the petitioner may file an Affidavit of Publication and Diligent Search. This form will give the petitioner permission to publish the Summons in a newspaper after the court issues an Order of Publication and a Notice of Publication. Publication must be done four (4) times over a sixty (60) day period, with publication at least seven (7) day intervals in a newspaper in the county where the divorce is filed. If the other side lives in Georgia and you know the county where the other side lives, you must file your petition and publish your notice in that county. If you do not know in which county the other county resides, then you may file and publish in your county.
If the missing spouse still fails to appear, the divorce action continues as an uncontested default divorce. In the case that you later find the other party, you should amend your petition to be served personally to the other side, as mandated by Georgia law. In this case, you may not be able to continue being heard in your county, as it could fall outside of the jurisdictional boundaries of the county. However, you would also be eligible to receive relief such as child support and alimony.
It is important to not that the court anticipates that some people will ask for service by publication without actually trying to locate their spouse. Therefore, you should be prepared to show proof that you have actually done everything that you sworn to have done on the Affidavit of Publication and Diligent Search. Otherwise, your request for service by publication could be denied.
If you need help with a divorce case and cannot locate your spouse, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.