District of Columbia Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse
When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Washington D.C.
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 after a judge has been convinced, based on a sworn declaration, of the serving party's inability to find the Defendant. 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, fails to respond to the Summons within 20 days of issuance), the Petitioner must conduct a search followed by Service by Publication.
Washington D.C.'s Search Requirements and Process
Washington D.C.'s 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. This search normally entails an attempt to serve the missing spouse personally, contacting his or her family and friends, checking with the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Human Services, the U.S. Military Locator and telephone directories in the Washington area.
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 Washington D.C.
If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner prepares an Affidavit to Allow Service by Publication, Point and Authorities in Support of Motion to Allow Service by Publication, Affidavit of Attempted Service & Non Residency in Support of Motion to Allow Service by Publication, Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail.
These forms must be filed with Clerk of Courts, and the Petitioner may then arrange for publication of the notice.
When the court is satisfied with the effort, it Issues an Order Publication-Absent Defendant, which gives the Petitioner permission to publish a Notice of Publication once a week for three weeks in the Washington Law Reporter and another newspaper. The missing spouse has 40 days to respond. With publication, the court considers the missing spouse to be served process, and it considers the action uncontested. The Plaintiff can schedule a hearing to finalize the action.
Washington D.C. Service by Publication is described in D.C. Codes § 16-4505(a)(4), §§13-336(a) (2) & 13-340 (a), Domestic Relations, Rel. R. 4 (j)
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