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When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, when one spouse wants to call it quits but cannot find his or her missing partner, or when he or she is hiding, the Petitioner must file a Motion for Alternate Service.
This routine is used when the Petitioner does not know where his or spouse lives, or even if the spouse lives outside of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts's Search Requirements and Process
Massachusetts's courts do not require an exhaustive ("diligent") search that some jurisdictions mandate in the divorce of a missing spouse.
The Petitioner who cannot find his or her missing spouse completes a Motion for Alternative Service.
The Motion for Alternate Service identifies the town, county and state where the parties where married and the street address of where they last lived in Massachusetts. It states "...[T]he plaintiff has had no communication with the defendant, and has no information as to where the defendant now resides."
After a hearing, the Petitioner obtains a Divorce/Separate Support Summons and a legal notice from the clerk of courts. The Petitioner then sends the legal notice to a newspaper selected by the court.
The legal notice of the pending action must be published once a week for three weeks.
After this, a copy of the Divorce/Separate Support Summons and legal notice is mailed to the last known address of the missing spouse by certified mail, return receipt requested.
If the mail is accepted, the green postal return card is filed with the court. If it is not, the court is so informed, and the action proceeds as a default.
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 Massachusetts
This routine for filing is easier than in most jurisdictions that require an extensive search.
The cost of publication varies greatly, but in general big city newspapers are more expensive.
From start to finish, Service by Publication takes about two to three months.
Massachusetts Service by Publication is described in M.G.L.
Copyright Notice: These Massachusetts 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.