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When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Florida
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 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.
Florida's Search Requirements and Process
Florida 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 Florida, a diligent search means the Petitioners "... must really search very thoroughly for the Respondent and follow all leads that they discover in their search," according to the Administrative Office of the Courts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida. "The following is a list of actions the Court may find reasonable for the Petitioner to take before filing a sworn statement that a 'diligent search and inquiry' has been made":
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 Florida
If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner then files an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry (Form 12.912 (b)), a notarized statement describing the efforts made to locate the missing spouse. At the same time, the Petitioner also prepares a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage (Form 12.922(a)), which is a summons. When the court approves the Affidavit of Diligent Search, the Notice of Dissolution can be published once a week for four weeks in a newspaper that specializes in publishing classified legal advertisements.
If the missing spouse does not respond in 28 days, the Petitioner files a Motion for Default, and the action proceeds as a default divorce.
The cost of publication varies depending on the newspaper.
From start to finish, Service by Publication takes more than 90 days.
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.
Florida Service by Publication is governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
Copyright Notice: These Florida 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.