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Maryland Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Maryland

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 Summons delivered by private process server or certified mail), the Petitioner must conduct what is termed a "diligent search" followed by Service by Publication.

Maryland's Search Requirements and Process

If the missing spouse cannot be located and fails to respond within certain time periods (30, 60 or 90 days, depending on his or her location in Maryland, out of state or out of the United States, respectively) the Petitioner may file a Request for Order of Default. Once the Order for Default is received, he or she may schedule an uncontested divorce hearing. Before these steps may be taken, however, the Petitioner must make a "diligent effort" to locate the missing spouse if at all possible.

Maryland 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. The search must be documented and may entail attempting:

  • serving the missing spouse by certified mail at the last known address (and saving return receipts);
  • sending letters to friends and relatives (saving copies of the letters and responses);
  • writing to the last employer (saving copies of the letter and the response);
  • searching the telephone directory, directory assistance and the Internet (with a record of results)
  • calling the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration for a current address;
  • contacting the Military Service Locator;
  • contacting the Child Support Enforcement Agency;
  • checking 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.

>>> 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 Maryland

If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner files a Motion for Alternative Service DR70, a three-page, notarized statement documenting that the Petitioner has explored the above avenues without success (including the option of hiring a private investigator or lawyer to search for the missing spouse).

When the court is satisfied with the effort, it Issues an Order for Alternative Service DR 71, permitting the Petitioner to publish a Notice - Alternative Service DR72. The notice is published at least once a week in each of three successive weeks in one or more newspapers of general circulation published in the county in which the action is pending. This publication should be in a newspaper likely to be seen by the missing spouse.

The notice, signed by the Clerk of the Courts, includes the caption of the case, describes the complaint and the relief sought, informs the defendant of the latest date by which the response is to be filed and warns the defendant that failure to file the response may result in a judgment by default or the granting of the relief sought.

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

Maryland Service by Publication is described in Maryland Rules, Rule 2-121, 2-212.

Copyright Notice: These Maryland 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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