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Ohio Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Ohio

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 certified mail or repeated attempts by the Sheriff or private process servers, which are the preferred means), the Petitioner must conduct what is termed a "diligent search" followed by Service by Publication. If the residence of the missing spouse in an action for divorce, annulment, or legal separation is unknown, or if the Defendant is not a resident of this state or is a resident of this state but absent from the state, service must be effected by publication.

Ohio's Search Requirements and Process

Ohio 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. This search entails checking and/or contacting:

  • the U.S. Post Office through the Freedom of Information Act for any current address or relocation;
  • the last known employer for addresses where W-2 forms were mailed as well as any pension payments;
  • trade unions, regulatory agencies as well as professional and occupational licensing agencies;
  • relatives and relatives who might know the location of the missing spouse and maintaining a list of contacts;
  • the telephone book and directory assistance in the area where the missing spouse is last known to have lived;
  • Internet searches, such as www.switchbord.com;
  • law enforcement agencies, including Department of Corrections;
  • the Highway Patrol;
  • Department of Motor Vehicles records in the state of last known address;
  • Title IV-D records in the missing spouse's state of last known address;
  • hospitals in the area of the last known address;
  • the various branches of the armed services;
  • the tax assessor's office in the area of last known address;
  • records of the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;
  • the Department of Motor Vehicles for registrations in the name of the missing spouse;
  • 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 Ohio

If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner files an Affidavit of Publication, a statement affirming that the Petitioner has made a good faith effort to locate the missing spouse.

When the court is satisfied with the effort, it issues an Order Permitting Publication. The publication is often in the county where the action is filed.

The publication contains a Summary Statement of the Complaint and Demand for Relief, and states that the missing spouse must answer in 28 days of publication. The notice is published at least once a week for six successive weeks. Service is effected date of the last publication.

After the last publication, the publisher files with the court an Affidavit Affirming Publication together with a copy of the Notice of Publication. The affidavit and copy of the notice constitutes proof of service.

If the missing spouse fails to respond, the court considers the action uncontested. The Plaintiff can move forward to complete the dissolution.

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

Ohio courts can grant the divorce in a publication action, but when the missing spouse has not been personally served, Ohio courts cannot rule on property outside of the state, nor make a ruling on spousal support.

Ohio Service by Publication is described in Ohio Revised Codes, Chapter XXXI, Domestic Relations, Chapter 3105 and Rule Ohio Rules of Civil procedure, 4.4.

Copyright Notice: These Ohio 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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