One will never find two completely similar divorce cases. All families are different, as well as the situations they find themselves in. In the US, spouses may decide to end their marriage amicably without any court battles and lawyers. Others will have to fight for custody, property, or alimony for years to come. Finally, there are situations where one spouse wants a divorce, but the location of the other spouse is unknown. If this is your situation, you may file for divorce by publication.
What Is Divorce by Publication?
Divorce by publication is the type of marriage dissolution that a petitioner can request when the defendant’s location is unknown and cannot be determined. It is also called “a missing spouse,” “newspaper,” and “one signature” divorce. To put it simply, this option will allow you to divorce by newspaper ad without providing an in-person notice to your spouse.
By law, the petitioner has to notify the defendant that they filed for marriage dissolution. They may do so by publishing a notice in a few newspapers when the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown. If the couple does not have children, then a missing spouse divorce in Florida should be quite easy for a petitioner to complete as long as they prove that they qualify for it.
Who Qualifies for Divorce by Publication?
Sometimes, it happens that one of the spouses moves to another city, state, or even country before either of them decides to file for divorce. While some couples may have lived apart for just a few weeks or months, others might not have been in touch for years. The length of such separation, however, is not a primary factor when it comes to qualifying for divorce by publication. What is important is an inability to find the spouse after making all the efforts to do so.
Mandatory Steps to Find a Missing Spouse
The mere fact of not knowing where your spouse is would not be enough to get a newspaper divorce. You need to try using their latest number and address to contact them, as well as ask their employer, relatives, neighbors, or friends about their whereabouts. If this yields no results, you have to try the following options:
- Submit a request for a driver license record in the DMV.
- Get information through the post office located where your spouse last lived.
- Make a search on WhitePages, federal, state, and county Inmate Search, as well as other databases.
- Find out if your spouse is a military member and get proof that they either are or aren’t.
These steps are the absolute minimum that would be required of you by the court. If some of them were not taken, your case would not be reviewed until they are. You are encouraged to take additional action to find your spouse, such as hiring a private investigator, if you have the means to do it.
How to Get a Divorce by Publication?
In order to get a divorce through a newspaper, you need to take the following steps:
- Make sure you have exhausted all means available to you to reach your spouse. It would be necessary to get proof of your search attempts and the lack of results from them.
- Gather evidence of your search. You may use letters, print screenshots, and find text chains with responses from different organizations, employers, friends, and anyone else you contacted.
- Find and fill out divorce by publication forms. These would be an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry as well as one of the versions of a Family Form.
- File the forms with the court. Notarize your Affidavit before doing so and attach the proof of your search attempts to it.
- Wait until the clerk or judge issues a Notice of Action. It will happen within 60 days after filing.
- Publish the Notice of Action in a Newspaper. In Florida, service by publication should be made in a court-approved newspaper. The Notice of Action must be published for 4 consecutive weeks (28 days).
- Request the court to proceed in default. If your spouse did not provide any response to your notice, ask the court to finalize your divorce without them.
- Wait until the judge reviews your motion and signs an order. Note that they might not be able to make any decisions regarding your property, children, or financial obligations of the missing spouse towards you and the kids.
How Long Does Divorce by Publication Take?
Filing for divorce by publication will take approximately 8 weeks. A lot will depend on the court caseload and how fast you go through the necessary court processes. Due to the state-mandated waiting periods allowing the spouse to provide a response to your Petition, it’s unlikely that you will be able to speed up the proceedings.
How Much Does a Divorce by Publication Cost?
Divorce by publication cost is determined by two factors: court fees and publication price. You should contact a few court-approved newspapers and ask how much it costs to post a notice for 4 weeks. In general, the cost of publication is under $100. The court filing fee is $408.
If you cannot afford to cover the filing fees, you may ask the court to waive them. To do it, you have to fill out the Application for Determination of Indigent Status, showing that your financial situation necessitates such a relief.
If the publication costs are the ones that concern you, it is worth finding cheaper alternatives to the newspapers you reviewed. You may also request to post the notice in the courthouse if that is an option.