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New Jersey Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in New Jersey

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 the Sheriff in the county where he or she resides), the Petitioner must ask the court for permission to use an alternative method of service. This is done in one of two ways: 1) serving the Defendant by what is called "substituted service, which means serving another person who is able to give the Summons and Complaint for divorce to the Defendant; or 2) serving the Defendant by Publication.

New Jersey's Search Requirements and Process

New Jersey 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. In New Jersey, "diligent inquiries" are very demanding and require that the Petitioner use prepared form letters. This search entails sending letters to:

  • The missing spouse's family members, close friends, or past employers who might know his or her address. These letters must be sent by both regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. The form is Letter of Inquiry to Defendant's Friends, Family, or Employers (From 9).
  • The Motor Vehicle Commission in the state where the missing spouse last held a driver's license. This letter must be sent regular mail only. The form is Letter of Inquiry to MVC (Form 9A).
  • All branches of the military. This letter may be sent by regular mail. The form is Letters of Inquiry to Military (Forms 9C through 9H).
  • The post office in the town where the missing spouse last resides. This may be sent by regular mail only, and may require payment of search fee, which should be included in the letter. The form is Letter of Inquiry to Postmaster (Form 9B).
Each letter must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and the Petitioner should retain a copy of each letter for use when completing supporting certifications for alternative service.

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 New Jersey

If the search is fruitless, three weeks after the letters of inquiry have been mailed, the Petitioner may request Substituted Service in a Special Agent, when the Petitioner knows someone in touch with the missing spouse. This requires filing a Request for Order Permitting Substituted Service on a Special Agent and Supporting Certification (Form 10A), which proves the court with information about the Petitioner's efforts to find the defendant by letters of inquiry, and the Supporting Certification (Form 10A), which supports the Petitioner's claims.

The Petitioner also must prepare an Order Permitting Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B), which identifies the agent and his or her relationship to the missing spouse, and a Filing Letter to Request for Substituted Service (Form 10C), which is filed with the clerk also with two copies of form 10A and 10B.

If the substituted service cannot work because the Petitioner does not know anyone who can be appointed for substituted service on the missing spouse, then the Petitioner must file a Request for Order Permitting Service by Publication and Supporting Certification (Form 11A), which includes all the information in Form 10A as well as copies of all the letters of inquiry (Forms 9 through 9H), and Order Permitting Service by Publication (Form 11B). In the Order, the Petitioner may suggest the name of a local newspaper where the notice will be published, but the court has the final say. Normally, the notice is published in the county where the action is filed.

The Petitioner files two copies of each of the following forms: in the case of Substituted Service on a Special Agent, the Filing Letter, Form 10C; the Request for Order, Form 10A; the Order, Form 10B; and in the case of Service by Publication, the Filing Letter, Form 11C; the Request for Publication, Form 11A; the Order, Form 11B.

After the order has been received, the Petitioner may serve the missing spouse.

In the case of Substituted Service on a Special Agent, the following documents must be sent to the Sheriff by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, in the county where the service is to happen: a Cover Letter to Sheriff (Form 7A); two copies of the Complaint for Divorce (Form 1A, 1B, 1C or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and Certification of Complementary Dispute Resolution (Form 2B), all marked filed; a copy of the Order Permitting Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form10B); a check or money order to cover the service; and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

In the case of Service by Publication, the signed Order Permitting Service by Publication (Form 11B) tells the Petitioner where to publish the order. The Petitioner also prepares the Notice of Publication (Form 12), which contains information similar to that found in the Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7). The Notice must be published in the newspaper within the deadline specified in the Order Permitting Service by Publication. In addition, the Petitioner must complete a Cover Letter to the Newspaper Requesting Publication (Form 12A) and enclose the fee payable to the newspaper. A self-addressed stamped envelope is also enclosed.

The newspaper returns an affidavit certifying publication. This and one copy are returned to the Clerk of the Court with a self-address, stamped envelope.

Regardless of the method of service, the Defendant - including one who is missing - must be served within four months of filing the Complaint.

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

New Jersey Service by Publication is New Jersey Rules of Civil Procedure.

Copyright Notice: These New Jersey 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.

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