How to Serve Divorce Paper If You Don't Know Where They Live

By Carrie Ferland

When you file for divorce, the process requires you to serve your former spouse with a copy of the papers. This is so your spouse is aware you have filed for divorce, and affords him an opportunity to respond to or dispute the action. When you are no longer in contact with your former spouse, however, it can be a bit difficult to satisfy this requirement. As this is a common problem in divorce matters, family courts have made other options available if you need to serve divorce papers and don't know where he lives.

Step 1

Locate your spouse's current address. With background-checking services now widely available online, you can find anyone's address for a small fee. Find an online background check tool and type in your spouse's name, date of birth and any additional information you have. Pay the fee, and you can instantly download a report listing all known addresses. If you find more than one possible address, you may consider attempting to serve the divorce papers at each location in person.

Step 2

Serve the divorce papers to a close relative, friend or neighbor. If you are unable to locate your former spouse's new address, most courts will allow you to officially serve the papers to her through a proxy. The same service process applies; however, the individual you serve the papers to becomes legally responsible for ensuring she receives them. Your spouse's mother, father or siblings are the best people to serve divorce papers to if you don't know where she lives. Be sure that whomever you serve is not currently estranged from him before doing so.

Read More: How to Serve Divorce Papers

Step 3

Make notice of the divorce filing in your local newspaper. Take out an advertisement in the newspaper that is distributed in the area where you suspect your former spouse is living. If you don't have an idea of the general area, you can place an ad in the newspaper that is distributed in the area where you lived together, and one or two other newspapers in areas where you know his family is living. Each family court has differing rules for how long the advertisement must run, so check with the court clerk for the exact rules. You will need to save a copy of the newspaper to prove the ad ran, as well.

Hire a process server. While this method is the most expensive, servers usually guarantee successful service. Process servers often have access to more sophisticated databases that allow them to find your spouse's new address efficiently, and will handle the entire service for you--all you need to do is provide a copy of the divorce papers.