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Michigan Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Michigan

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

The court permits service by publication only when the Petitioner cannot locate a missing spouse.

Michigan's Search Requirements and Process

Michigan 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 Michigan, a diligent search means the Petitioner must try the following:

  • searching the phone book and directory assistance in the area where he or she lives;
  • searching the phone book and directory assistance in the area where the missing spouse is last known to have lived;
  • asking friends and relatives who know where the missing spouse might be;
  • checking the post office where the missing spouse last lived for information about a forwarding address;
  • checking records of the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;
  • contacting the Michigan Secretary of State for auto registrations;
  • contacting landlords and prior employers;
  • checking with the registrar of voters;

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 Michigan

If the diligent search is barren, the Petitioner must complete a Motion and Verification for Alternative Service, which tells the court what efforts the Petitioner has made to locate the missing spouse and asks permission to publish a notice.

The court then approves the motion, and depending upon the intentions of the Petitioner, he or she may prepare an Order for Alternative Service or an Order for Service by Publication/Posting and Notice of Action. The Order for Alternative Service can be used if the Petitioner wants to serve process on a missing spouse by first class mail, by tacking it firmly to his or her door, or by delivering the Complaint for Divorce to a responsible member of the household. Serving the Order for Alternative Service requires proof of service.

Service by Publication means that the Petitioner may publish the complaint in a newspaper in the county of residence of the missing spouse once a week for three weeks. The publication files an Affidavit of Publishing after the three-week publishing regime ends, thus certifying publication.

The missing spouse has 21 days to respond to the publication of the summons. He or she has 28 days if the service is by mail or outside of Michigan.

When the missing spouse fails to respond within the time limit, the action proceeds as an uncontested default.

The cost of publication varies depending on the newspaper.

From start to finish, Service by Publication takes about 60 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.

The Michigan Code of Civil Procedure governs Michigan Service by Publication.

Copyright Notice: These Michigan 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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