In any legal case, one of the first steps to initiate an action is to file a petition and serve the necessary documents on the responding party, the individual whom you are bringing the case against. A divorce is no different. You, as the petitioner will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court, and a summons will be issued by the Clerk of Court and copies of these documents are required to be served on your spouse, also known as the respondent. Typically, this service is done through personal means involving hand delivery through a process server or the sheriff. However, this is not always possible. Service is one of the critical foundation pieces of any court case and therefore, if you are having difficulties serving your spouse or even locating them to proceed with your divorce, contact a Florida Divorce Attorney today.
Ultimately, if a spouse cannot be found, Florida statute allows the party to fulfill the service requirement through publication also known as constructive service. 49.011 However, there are many steps the party must take in order to achieve this result. The first step in obtaining proper service of a spouse who cannot be found is to conduct a diligent search, and file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry with the court. This document simply notifies the court that you made significant effort to determine the current address and location of your spouse and you were unsuccessful. Diligent searches may come in the form of: inquiring of the United States Postal Office, seeking the last known employment and residence of the spouse, contacting relatives, possible telephone contact information, internet searches, criminal records, DMV searches, hospitals or any other tactics you may have used such as employment of a private investigator. These searches must be documented in your Affidavit as to allow the court to make a ruling on the fulfillment of the diligent search requirement. After a successful Affidavit has been filed, you will then file a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage. This will then be signed by the clerk and then is required to be published in the local newspapers in the county where the case is pending and is required to be printed in the newspapers for 4 consecutive weeks. If no answer has been filed or any information regarding the missing spouse has come forward during this time, the court will consider this to be constructive service. Constructive service holds the same weight with the court as personal service upon a party. Therefore, you will be able to proceed with the divorce and a default will be entered against your spouse. This allows you to proceed with the divorce without intervention of the other party.
If you are attempting to divorce your partner, but have no information regarding their whereabouts, contact a Florida Divorce Attorney. We will be able to assist you in the proper legal avenues you must take in order to move forward with a divorce, and the steps a diligent search requires. Allow our experience and knowledge to aid you during this difficult time.
Speaking to an attorney at our Florida office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 850-307-5211 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.