How do I serve my spouse with a Summons and Complaint if I don’t know where he/she currently lives?
In Georgia, to initiate a suit for divorce, a party must first file a complaint for divorce in the clerk’s office of the Superior Court in the appropriate jurisdiction. The second required step in any divorce action is to notify the Defendant that he has been sued for divorced.
How to “serve” your spouse for divorce
The most common way to do so is to serve the non-filing party with a copy of the Summons and Complaint for Divorce. This can be done through the sheriff’s office or by hiring a special process server to do so. Alternatively, the service requirement may be satisfied by having the non-filing party submit a form to the clerk’s office acknowledging receipt of the paperwork. These options are relatively easy to do when couples are still in the same household or keep in daily contact.
However often times when couples separate, months, or even years, go by without one party filing for divorce. When it comes time for one party to finally file, the question becomes: How do I serve my spouse with the Summons and Complaint if I don’t know where he or she is?
4 methods of serving your spouse with a Summons of Complaint
Generally, one can serve a spouse with a Summons and Complaint in one of 4 ways:
- first class mail
- certified mail
- personal service by Sheriff
- process server
In Georgia, if your spouse lives in another county or state, the sheriff of that county must serve the Summons and Complaint for you. These methods are all easy when you have an address.
Only as a last resort, if one truly cannot find their spouse, may a “notice by publication” be a proper method of service.
How to Serve by Publication
In order to serve your spouse by publication, first you must file a request to Serve by Publication with the Court. This motion shows the Court that you have made every effort possible to find your spouse. In this request, you must show exactly what you did to locate your spouse and the responses you received (if any).
Therefore, as you attempt to locate your spouse, write down every address you attempted service at, and the dates you tried service. Check your spouse’s last known address, phone numbers, last known job, any of your spouse’s family members or friends, social media, internet searches, etc. It will be paramount to attach as evidence all the proof of the attempts you tried and the documents you sent. Therefore, save copies of the documents you sent as well as copies of any mail that is returned to you as undeliverable.
How to publish the notice of divorce in your newspaper
Once you show the judge this evidence, and that your spouse truly cannot be found, the judge will give you permission (a court order) to publish the notice. At this point, you should contact the legal organ (newspaper) in the county where you filed for divorce to have an advertisement published.
For example, in Fulton County, you would contact The Fulton County Daily Report, whereas in DeKalb County, you would reach out to The Champion Newspaper. When you call, explain that you need a legal notice published. You must provide the Notice, signed by the judge, to the newspaper. Your advertisement will cost roughly $80.00 to publish depending on its length. Judges usually require that a notice be published four times within sixty (60) days after you file it, and publications must be seven days apart.
Once your advertisement has run in four (4) additions, the legal organ will mail you a publisher’s affidavit or notice confirming that your legal advertisement has run the requisite number of times. You must then file that notice with the Court in the same manner as if you actually served your spouse in person.
Now you can proceed with the divorce
From here, you can proceed with your divorce. However, it is important to note that unlike the other types of service where a response is due within thirty (30) days of being served, a Defendant who is served via publication has sixty (60) days to file his response. Thus, your case will not be ripe for disposition until sixty (60) days have passed from the filing of the publisher’s affidavit so schedule your court date accordingly.
For more information, visit: http://www.fultoncourt.org/family/family-service.php
If you need help with this process, contact your family law attorney at The Porter Law Firm: 678-710-9100.
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