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California Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in California

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 in California 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 Deputy Sheriff or a private process service or by certified mail), the Petitioner must conduct what is termed a "diligent search" followed by Service by Publication. The court permits service by publication only when the Petitioner cannot locate a missing spouse.

California's Search Requirements and Process

California courts require a good faith effort by the Petitioner to prove that he or she has made a genuine search for his or her missing partner. "Service by publication is only available when the Respondent's whereabouts is unknown in spite of diligent effort by the petitioner to find the respondent's address."

In California, a diligent search means the Petitioner must try the following:

  • searching the phone book and directory assistance in the area where he or she lives;

  • searching the phone book and directory assistance in the area where the missing spouse is last known to have lived;

  • asking friends and relatives who know where the missing spouse might be;

  • checking the post office where the missing spouse last lived for information about a forwarding address;

  • checking records of the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;

  • contacting the California Department of Motor Vehicles for auto registrations;

  • contacting landlords and prior employers;

  • checking with the registrar of voters;

  • using private investigators.

    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.

    >>> Download the Affidavit of Diligent Search

    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 in California.

    File for Divorce in California by Publication

    If the diligent search is barren, the Petitioner must complete an Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons; Declaration of Petitioner in Support Thereof; Memorandum of Points and Authorities and Order of Publication.

    The Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons; Declaration of Petitioner in Support Thereof is one form that documents the diligent efforts of the Petitioner to locate the missing spouse. After the court approves it, it issues an Order of Publication. This order permits the publication of the summons, which is published once a week for four successive weeks, with at last five days between successive publications.

    The missing spouse has 30 days to file a response, which begins to run on the 28 days after the first day of publication.

    When the missing spouse fails to respond within the 30 days, the Petitioner files a Request to Enter Default Dissolution of Marriage. No hearing is held. The missing spouse divorce becomes final six months after the first publication of the summons in the newspaper.

    The cost of publication varies depending on the newspaper.

    From start to finish, Service by Publication takes about six months.

    The court can grant the divorce in California in a publication action, but it cannot make any decisions regarding child custody, child support or division of property.

    The California Code of Civil Procedure, § 415.10-415.50, governs California Service by Publication.

    Copyright Notice: These California divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. 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.

As seen on Forbes, USA Today, CNN and NPR
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