So you’ve finally decided to get a divorce. You’ve already filed for a divorce petition and awaiting your spouse’s response. However, they are already living separately and avoiding getting served. What do you do?
You want your divorce to go as smoothly and as drama-free as possible, but your soon-to-be former spouse has other plans. Having an uncooperative spouse can drag on the divorce proceedings and cause unnecessary expenses. So, what do you do if your spouse is purposely avoiding the first step of the divorce, which is receiving the divorce papers?
Here are the steps you can take:
1. Hire a process server
A process server will hand-deliver the divorce papers to your spouse through legal and timely means. Even if your spouse is purposely avoiding getting served, a good process server will use other tactics to deliver the documents to them, such as putting them in the mail, going to their place of work, or leaving the documents with someone in the household who is at least 18 years old.
You will be given a limited amount of time to deliver the divorce papers after the plaintiff has filed the summons with the court. If your spouse is trying to avoid getting served, a process server can use their expertise to find them and serve them the papers. Moreover, a process server does not need to get anything signed. They just need to accomplish a form that says they have served the papers.
2. Ask for “due diligence”
Sometimes, serving papers to your spouse is more difficult than just leaving the documents at their residence. This is true for cases wherein spouses have been separated for years and have already lost contact. If this is the case for you, ask your process server to exercise due diligence. They will then make multiple attempts to find your spouse and serve them, using strategies such as seeking their new address, talking to the neighbors or co-workers, and running online searches.
3. Publish the summons
If your process server is still unable to locate your spouse despite exercising due diligence, you may request the judge to publish the summons in any general circulation newspaper. Check with your local guidelines on how to publish, where you can publish, and how often you need to publish the summons in the paper. In general, your notice of intent to divorce should be published in a newspaper of the city of the last known residence of your spouse.
After running the notice of intent to divorce in the paper for four weeks, the newspaper will send you a notarized statement, which you will then file with the court to prove the service of papers.
4. Pursue a default divorce
If your spouse has not responded to the divorce papers after the given amount of time, you may pursue a default divorce. In a default divorce, the judge will base the ruling on your testimony only, which can save you both time and money during the whole process.
In some cases, a defendant may be doing everything to avoid getting served, thinking it will delay the divorce entirely. In other cases, a defendant spouse has moved somewhere else and is hard to locate. Whichever type of spouse you have, you can follow these tips to get started with the divorce proceedings.