Florida law says that, to begin the divorce process, you must file a divorce petition with a court and then serve the petition and summons on your spouse. But what happens when you are unable to locate your spouse to serve them with divorce papers? If you are unable to locate your spouse you may then constructively serve them by using a process also known as service by publication. The popularity and widespread use of social media have raised many questions regarding whether service by publication may be affected by a spouse being served with divorce papers on Facebook.
How Do You Make Service by Publication?
The process of serving a missing spouse by publication involves several different steps.
First, you must make a diligent attempt to locate your missing spouse. The easiest way to understand what constitutes as a diligent effort is to think of it as a good faith effort: you search the internet, ask mutual acquaintances for this information, and call or email the spouse. If after all this you still cannot find them you may attempt to serve them by publication.
Before you can serve them by publication, you will need to prepare a sworn statement saying you have been unable to find your spouse in spite of your efforts. To do this, you will file an Affidavit of Diligent Search, which discusses in detail the methods you used to locate your spouse. Essentially, the Affidavit of Diligent Search proves to the court that your spouse simply cannot be found.
At the same time, you prepare your Affidavit of General Search, you will also need to prepare a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage. Once the court has approved your Affidavit of Diligent Search, the Notice of Action of Dissolution can be published in a paper specializing in making these kinds of legal announcements. If the spouse you have been unable to locate does not respond to the announcement within 28 days, you are then able to file a Motion for Default, which means that you are asking the court to treat the matter as a default divorce.
Can Facebook Be Used to Serve Process by Publication on a Missing Spouse?
While the courts in Florida have not ruled definitively on whether one spouse may serve process on a missing spouse via Facebook, other courts have, especially in New York. Recently, a Manhattan judge allowed a wife to serve process on her husband via Facebook Messenger, as the husband was avoiding being served with divorce papers and would only contact the wife by phone or through Facebook Messenger. This case and other cases where service by publication have been centered around extreme circumstances that aren’t necessarily present in every divorce case, however, and the fact remains that Florida’s service statutes were not written to contemplate service via the internet.
What Should I Do If I Need a Divorce But Can’t Find My Spouse?
Divorce is a complicated process with many different steps. If you are contemplating divorce and cannot find your spouse, don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Blair H. Chan III, PLLC, who are ready to help you through your divorce at every step of the way.