What do I do if I want to get a Georgia divorce but I cannot find my spouse?
The answer is Service by Publication. 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 other spouse 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 other spouse cannot or will not be found and fails to respond to the summons, the Petitioner must conduct what is known as a diligent search followed by Service by Publication ( See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4 )
Service by Publication Search Requirements and Process
Courts in the state of Georgia 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 search consists of:
- checking the telephone book and directory assistance for the missing spouse in the area where the Petitioner (person asking for the divorce) lives;
- checking the telephone book and directory assistance in the area where the missing spouse is last known to have lived;
- asking friends and relatives who might know the location of the missing spouse;
- checking the post office for any forwarding address of the missing spouse;
- checking records of the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;
- contacting the department of motor vehicles for registrations in the name of the missing spouse;
- checking any other possible sources that might lead to a current address.
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. 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 Georgia
If nothing results from the search, the petitioner files an Affidavit of Publication and Diligent Search, a notarized statement affirming that the petitioner has checked with the other spouse’s friends and relatives, his or her landlord and searched telephone directories and information. When the court is satisfied with the effort, it issues an Order of Publication, which gives the petitioner permission to publish a Notice of Publication four times within 60 days, with each publication being seven days apart. The publication is often in the county where the action is filed. If the missing spouse fails to respond within one week of the last publication of the notice, the court considers the action uncontested. The Plaintiff can schedule a hearing to finalize the action. The clerk of the court usually sends the notice to the newspaper to be published, but the petitioner pays the cost which varies on price. This is in addition to the average $75 divorce filing fees. Generally, from start to finish, service by publication takes about three to four months. The court can grant the divorce in a publication action, but it cannot make any decisions regarding child custody, child support or division of property.
If you need to speak with an attorney about a divorce in the Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek, Milton, Atlanta, Cumming, and Metro-Atlanta area about a divorce, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. Contact >