How Can I Serve Him/Her When I Don't Know Where He/She Lives?

A common issue that arises when parties who are long separated (often without children) ultimately decide to seek a divorce find they may no longer know where the other side lives. The standard rule is that in order for a lawsuit to proceed, the Respondent must receive actual notice of the pendency of the action which has been filed against them. In simple terms, they must be personally served with a copy of the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (and supporting documents).

When one side doesn't know whether the other lives, however, this can present a significant problem in that if the Petitioner doesn't know where the Respondent lives, how can they give them a copy of the documents, effectuating "good" service? Luckily, alternatives do exist.

The court does provide for Service by Publication, whereby a copy of the Summons and Petition is published in a local newspaper once per week for four consecutive weeks, but in order to do this, permission from the court is required. Before the court will give permission to serve by publication, you must show that all reasonable efforts have been made to locate the Respondent, including but not limited to, a records search of the local area (or area where they last lived) and a skip-trace (which is done by a private investigator or other type of business which provides locate services). Proof of your attempts will be required.

The process can be a little complicated, so the services of an attorney experienced in doing this type of work can help resolve a long dormant divorce and allow for the case to be resolved.
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