3StepDivorce Florida Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse
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":

  • ask the U. S. Postmaster in the cities of Respondent's previously known residences for forwarding addresses under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • search phone directories of he cities and towns of the Respondent's possible residence;
  • search public records of the tax collector and assessor;
  • search records of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles;
  • inquire of persons in the neighborhood where the Respondent formerly lived;
  • ask at utility companies, including water, sewer, cable, TV, and electric, in areas of likely residence;
  • contact the last known employer of the Respondent;
  • ask About any addresses to which W-2 forms were mailed. If there is a pension or profit sharing plan, ask to what address any pension is being mailed;
  • inquire the Union from which the Respondent my have worked or which may govern his particular trade or craft;
  • gather names and addresses of Respondent's relatives and contacts with those relatives and ask them for any information that may lead to finding the Respondent. Petitioner should follow up any leads given, including searching for the Respondent in towns or cities to which he is known to have moved. Relatives include, but are not limited to, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, great-grandparents, former in-laws, stepparents and stepchildren;
  • inquire as to whether or not the Respondent may have passed away and, if so, the date and location;
  • inquire of law enforcement agencies at the last known residential area of Respondent, including Highway Patrol, State police, Department of Corrections;
  • inquire at hospitals in the last areas where the Respondent was known to live.
  • use services of private investigation agencies or similar "skip tracing" services.
  • search the Internet using such sites as www.databaseamerica.com/ and www.kisw.com/reference/directoirides.html and www.lycos.com/peoplefind/and www.swwitchboard.com/. If you do not have access to the Internet, or are unfamiliar with its use, go to the public library and ask the librarian to help you.
  • write letters to the Armed Forces of the U.S. asking whether or not they have any information as to the Respondent.
If the Respondent has never lived in Florida, the Court may require publication in the town of the Respondent's last known address in addition to the required Florida publication.

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.

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.

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