How to Serve Divorce Papers in the Newspaper

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Pursuing a divorce case requires you to obtain what is known as service of the summons and petition on your spouse. Summons and petition commonly are referred to as "divorce papers." Following the filing of a petition, the standard course is for the sheriff's office to serve the summons and petition. In some cases, the spouse or respondent in a divorce case cannot be found. An alternative means of service is followed through publishing in a newspaper.

Write a motion to the court to obtain permission to seek service on the respondent (your spouse) through publication in a newspaper. Advance court approval to use this process is necessary. In your motion, you need to set forth why your spouse cannot be served through any other means.

File the motion with the clerk of the court. You will obtain a date and time for a hearing on your motion. Provided you do demonstrate that your spouse is not available to be served through any other means, the judge will grant you permission to serve through the newspaper.

Prepare an appropriate notice to be published in the newspaper. The clerk of the court or the judge's administrative assistant will provide you with the standard-form publication notice. If your spouse does not respond by a date set by the court and specified in the published notice, you are entitled to a default judgment in your favor.

Take the notice to what is known as a "newspaper of general circulation" in your community. The notice is placed in the legal ads section of the newspaper. Most courts require that the notice be published once a week for three weeks (or a similar time frame). Check with the court to determine the specific publication requirements.

Obtain an affidavit of publication from the newspaper after the notice is published the required number of times. The affidavit is a sworn statement from an appropriate official that verifies the publication of the notice.

File the affidavit of publication with the clerk of the court.


  • "The Divorce Organizer & Planner"; Brette Sember; 2004
  • "Essential Guide to Divorce"; Emily Doskow; 2008
  • Divorce Support, FAQ Base


About the Author

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.