Where Do You Look When Your Name Is Put in the Newspaper for Your Divorce?

By Michael Butler

When your spouse files for divorce, she must give you legally effective notice that she has filed. This notice, called service of process, can be done in several ways, such as sending the divorce petition by certified mail or having the sheriff give it to you. In some circumstances, the only notice required is to publish notice of the divorce in a newspaper.

Service by Publication

Giving notice of legal proceedings by publishing in a newspaper is called "service by publication." States differ on when it is appropriate and the exact process that must be followed. Generally, service by publication is available only when the whereabouts of the defendant are unknown. In most states, the person filing for divorce, or his attorney, must sign a sworn affidavit that reasonable efforts to find the defendant have been made. Some states allow service by publication when the defendant in a divorce case lives out of state.

What Newspaper?

The states differ on what newspaper the notice should be published in. Some states require that it be a newspaper published in the county where the defendant last resided, if the county is known. Some states require that the newspaper be published in the county the divorce was filed in. Normally, if a newspaper is not published within the appropriate county, the notice must be filed in a newspaper of "general circulation" in the county, which is often considered the newspaper with the largest number of readers in the county.

What Issue?

The general rule is that the notice must be published once a week for three consecutive weeks. However, some states may have different rules in some cases. If you suspect that your spouse filed for divorce and put notice of the divorce in the newspaper, you should check at least three weeks' worth of issues at about the time you think your spouse filed for divorce. Some newspapers only publish legal notices on specific days, so you might want to call the newspaper office and ask when it publishes legal notices.

What Section?

Newspapers that regularly publish legal notices generally have a regular section for them. This section might be called "Legal Notices," "Legal Filings" or "Court Proceedings." The section's location varies from paper to paper, but it is often near the classifieds. As a final consideration, some newspapers may have a practice of publishing local court filings on their own as news. The paper will have a regular section for these as well. However, that is not service by publication or legally effective notice.