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When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Arkansas
When one spouse wants to call it quits but cannot find his or her missing partner, or when he or she is hiding, divorce by publication comes into play. Divorce by publication happens "only after a judge has been convinced, based on a sworn declaration, of the serving party's inability to find the Defendant after trying hard. Service by publication is commonly used in a divorce action to serve a spouse who has disappeared without a leaving a forwarding address... "
When the Respondent cannot or will not be found (and, therefore, cannot be served by a County Sheriff or Process Server), the Plaintiff must conduct what is termed a "diligent search" followed by Service by Publication.
Arkansas's Search Requirements and Process
Arkansas courts require a good faith effort by the Plaintiff to prove that he or she has made a genuine search for his or her missing partner. This search usually entails checking the telephone book and directory assistance in the areas where both parties live or may have lived, asking friend and relative for leads, contacting the post office for any forwarding addresses, contacting former employers, and any other possible sources that might lead to a current address.
In order to be eligible for a "Divorce by Publication", you must complete and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This document clearly outlines all of the actions you have taken to locate your spouse, essentially proving to the court that your spouse absolutely can't be found.
If you actively pursue locating your spouse through the methods outlined in the Affidavit of Diligent Search, and still can't locate your spouse, then a "Divorce by Publication" is your likely method of getting a divorce.
Filing for Divorce by Publication in Arkansas
If the search is fruitless, the Plaintiff files an Affidavit for Warning Order, a notarized statement that attests that the missing spouse is "a nonresident of Arkansas or has no known address so that a summons cannot be served..." The Affidavit of Warning also states the efforts the Plaintiff made to locate the missing spouse.
When the court approves the Affidavit of Warning, the Plaintiff files an Affidavit of Service by Warning Order, which states that the Plaintiff proceeded either 1) in Forma Pauperis, publishing the Warning Order on the courthouse bulletin board for 30 days, or 2) published the Warning Order "in a newspaper of general circulation weekly for a period of at least two weeks." Attached to the Affidavit of Service by Warning Order is Proof of Publication from the newspaper. The Affidavit of Service by Warning Order is filed 30 days after the Warning Order is published or posted.
The Affidavit of Service by Warning Order requires the Plaintiff to have made a diligent effort to contact the Respondent's friends and relatives, his or her landlord and searched telephone directories and information. Both affidavits require that the court is satisfied with the effort to locate the missing partner.
Whether the missing spouse is served by Warning Order in the courthouse or publication in the newspaper, he or she must be sent a copy of the Compliant and the Warning Order by certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. The Plaintiff must then file another affidavit attesting that the postal receipt card was returned or that service by publication was made in one of the two above ways.
Once the requirements of Service by Publication have been met, the Plaintiff may ask the court to schedule a hearing on the merits of the action, which proceeds as a default.
From start to finish, Service by Publication takes about one or two months.
The court can grant the divorce in a publication action, but it cannot make any decisions regarding child custody, child support or division of property.
Arkansas Service by Publication is described in the Arkansas Code Annotated.
Copyright Notice: These Arkansas divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.