How do I go about serving my spouse if she lives in another state and I do not have her address?

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How do I go about serving my spouse if she lives in another state and I do not have her address?

Asked on September 2, 2015 under Family Law, Michigan

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The legal system does not allow action against a person without first giving them an opportunity to appear and explain their side. Consequently, notice must be given to them. In a divorce in which there is a missing spouse they still must be informed of the divorce action before it can proceed. The way this is accomplished is by a "divorce by publication".
The filing spouse i.e. petitioner must make every effort to find their missing spouse i.e. respondent. They will have to present proof that they made a diligent search to find them. They will have to show that they checked with family/friends, DMV, voting records, the phone book, etc. Hiring a private investigaotor is excellant proof that a good faith search was made.
At that point, the petitioner is allowed to serve the repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper instead of personal service. The judge will instruct as to which paper to use. Generally it will be in one that is in the area of their last known whereabouts. 
In most jurisdictions, the respondent has 30-60 days to file an answer after the first day of publication. If they fail to do so within that time, the petitioner can then file a request to enter a default dissolution of marriage i.e. divorce. Typically it is granted upon the terms requested by the petitioner but the respondent can appeal the divorce or the terms of the divorce within a certain time period.
 

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A process server can do a skip trace to locate your spouse and obtain her address.  Process servers can be found online or in the Yellow Pages under attorney services.
If the process server is unable to obtain your spouse's address by skip trace, your spouse can be served by publication.
Service by publication is running the notice to your spouse in the newspaper for a specific period of time.  The court clerk can tell you how long the notice has to run in the newspaper to be valid service of process as the required amount of time varies from state to state.  Service by publication is effective even if your spouse never sees the notice in the legal notices section of the newspaper.


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