The divorce process usually begins when one spouse files a petition for divorce. The petitioner must satisfy the service of process requirement by notifying his or her spouse of the case filing. This notice, typically delivered in person by a process server, establishes the court’s jurisdiction on the defendant spouse. However, sometimes a spouse cannot be located. In these instances, the court may allow the petitioner to fulfill the notice requirement in other ways.
In New Jersey, when a spouse cannot locate his or her partner, the missing spouse may be served in one of two ways, either by substituted service and service by publication. To request a substituted service of process or service by publication, the petitioner must first satisfy several search requirements.
The petitioner spouse must request permission from the court and show that he or she made a good faith effort to search for the missing spouse. He or she must also conduct diligent inquiries using prepared form letters, including a self-addressed, stamped return envelope.
- Letter of Inquiry to Defendant’s Friends, Family or Employers: These letters must be sent by regular and certified mail with return receipt requested to the missing spouse’s family members, friends, or past employers who may know where he or she is living.
- Letter of Inquiry to the MVC: This letter must be sent to the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) in the state where the missing spouse last had a driver’s license, sent by regular mail.
- Letters of Inquiry to Military: These letters must be sent by regular mail to all branches of the military.
- Letter of Inquiry to Postmaster: This letter must be sent to the post office in the town where the missing spouse last resided.
The petitioner should retain copies of the letters and proof of service by Certification to show the court along with an Affidavit of Diligent Search so the Court may see the efforts made to locate and serve the missing spouse. Three weeks after the letters have been mailed, the missing spouse may request substituted service, which, if granted, allows someone other than the sheriff or process server to serve the missing spouse with the summons and complaint.
Service by Publication
If the petitioner does not know anyone who can be appointed for substituted service on the missing spouse, he or she may request the court to allow service by publication. If the court grants the request, the petitioner may give the missing spouse constructive notice by publishing the information in a newspaper. The court will determine in which paper the notice will be published, normally where the action is filed but it may also be in the area of the last known address. If the missing spouse does not respond after the notice has been published, the court will order a divorce by default.
Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advise Clients on Divorce by Publication
If you cannot locate your spouse, you may be able to get a divorce by publication, which takes approximately two months in New Jersey. It is therefore important to contact the Woodbridge divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. to discuss your case as soon as possible. From our office in Somerville, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout the state, including Somerville, Somerset, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Woodbridge. Contact us online or call us at 908-575-9777 to schedule a free consultation.