Joni Salomon, a family lawyer in Beverly Hills, answers:
Sometimes, one spouse will avoid service of the divorce papers under the misconception that if they never get served, the other spouse cannot move forward with the divorce or legal separation. This myth is common. However, the court is empowered to allow the petitioner to effect service by publication when the court is satisfied that the respondent cannot be served with reasonable diligence personally or by mail.
If you know your spouse’s post office address and that his or her mail was being picked up from that box, then failure to attempt service by mail will prevent the court from allowing service by publication. The court will require proof that the respondent cannot reasonably be served personally or by mail and may require that a search of databases (such as voter registration rolls) be conducted. A search of databases often requires the assistance of a private investigator.
Should the court be satisfied that the respondent cannot be served by mail or in person, the court will order the summons to be published in a named California newspaper or, if the party resides out-of-state, in a named newspaper elsewhere. The summons is published once a week for four consecutive weeks and service is considered complete on the last day of publication.
Once service has been completed, the respondent will be deemed served. If the respondent spouse fails to respond within the 30-day requisite period, then the petitioner spouse can proceed with the divorce without the respondent’s input.
Joni Salomon is the founder of the Salomon Law Corporation in Beverly Hills, California. Joni is a Certified Family Law Specialist with over 10 years’ experience practicing divorce and family law.