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Wisconsin Divorce By Publication - Missing Spouse

When a Spouse Cannot Be Found in Wisconsin

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 a search followed by Service by Publication.

In Wisconsin, service by publication is a last resort that can be used only if every other method of service has been tried unsuccessfully. The other methods include service by the Sheriff's Department of the county in which the other spouse lives, a private process server or service by a friend or relative.

Wisconsin's Search Requirements and Process

Wisconsin 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 means the Petitioner has, at a minimum, done the following:

  • attempted personal service through the Sheriff's Department or a private process server;
  • provided the Sheriff and/or the private process server with "as much information as possible to help them find the other person";
  • received an Affidavit of Due Diligence/Not Found/Attempted Service from the Sheriff or private process server attesting that the missing spouse could not be found.
Reasonable diligence may also include contacting the missing spouse's "relatives or friends for a current address and failed attempts at personal service." It also includes an attempt to mail a copy of the complaint and affidavit of service to the missing spouse at his or her last known address.

Even when the Petitioner cannot locate the missing spouse using one of the primary methods, he or she must still serve the missing partner within the 90-day deadline established by statue. If this cannot be done within the required time limits, the Petitioner may write a letter to the court requesting up to 60 more days within the time limits provided by the court.

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 Wisconsin

If the search is fruitless, the Petitioner prepares a Summons by Publication, which is published one a week for three weeks either in a legal newspaper or one "regularly published at least once a week in the city, village, or town where [the missing spouse] lives...or may live." The Summons by Publication gives the missing spouse 45 days from the date of first publication to respond with a "written demand for a copy of the petition." The newspaper provides the Petitioner with a Proof of Publication affidavit.

The Petitioner must also file an Affidavit of Efforts to Locate Absent Respondent, a notarized statement to the Petitioner's unsuccessful attempts to locate the missing spouse.

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

In Wisconsin, the court may grant judgment against the Respondent "for the award of money or other legal action requested in the petition."

Wisconsin Service by Publication is described in Wisconsin Statutes Annotated.

Copyright Notice: These Wisconsin 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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