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When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Washington
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, the Petitioner must conduct what is termed a search followed by Service by Publication.
Washington's Search Requirements and Process
Washington courts require a documented effort by the Petitioner to prove that he or she has made a genuine search for his or her missing partner. This search entails listing efforts "made to locate the nonmoving party for personal service or service by mail." This includes "careful inquiry" of relations, friends and business associates and a listing of these persons. The search sometimes includes checking the telephone book and directory assistance in the area where the Petitioner lives and in the area where the Respondent is last known to have lived as well as asking friends, work associates and relatives who might know the location of the missing spouse.
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 Washington
If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner files a Motion and Declaration for Service of Summons by Publication (DR 01.0260), a sworn statement describing the Petitioner's efforts to locate the missing spouse and asking the court to permit publication of the summons.
When the court is satisfied with the effort, it Issues an Order for Service by Publication (DR 01.0265), which gives the Petitioner permissions to publish a Summons by Publication (DR 01.0270).
The missing spouse then has 60 days after the first date of publication, and the court can enter a default judgment against him or her "at least 90 days after service and filing."
The court can grant the divorce in a publication action, but it cannot award "what is called personal relief...That is, [the petitioner] will not be awarded any property, child support, or maintenance; only the dissolution of [the] marriage and custody of the children are settled by this process."
Washington also permits service by mail when the spouse lives out of state, or has "consistently avoided personal service," or the Petitioner knows no one who can serve the missing spouse, or the Petitioner lacks the funds for an out-of-state server." Service by mail requires that the Petitioner file a Motion and Declaration to Serve by Mail, which must include an address. The court then issues an Order Allowing Service by Mail and a Summons by Mail.
Washington Service by Publication is described in RCW 4.28.100.
Copyright Notice: These Washington 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.