How to Serve Divorce Papers If You Can't Locate Your Spouse in Ohio

by Kay Lee, studioD

Although divorce typically involves two people who no longer wish to be married, sometimes a spouse simply leaves without ending the relationship through the formal divorce process. There are still options for the spouse left behind to obtain a formal divorce, even if the other party cannot be located. Ohio has special rules that govern these situations.

First Steps

Once you have determined that you wish to file for divorce, you must make a diligent, good faith effort to search for your spouse. You must be able to prove that you tried, but could not locate your spouse. Your spouse must have been willfully absent from your home for a one-year period prior to beginning your search.


Once your search is complete and your spouse has still not been located, sign an Affidavit of Diligent Search. To ensure the efforts to find your spouse are considered to have been made in good faith by the court, you should contact the post office, last known employer, relatives, Yellow Pages and other organizations that may know where your spouse is currently located. Internet searches can also indicate good faith efforts. Once the affidavit has been executed, you must file it with the domestic relations division of your local common pleas court. The affidavit will state that you cannot make personal service on your spouse because he cannot be found.

Notice by Publication

Once the affidavit is filed, you must seek an Order Permitting Publication, which commences the filing for divorce by publication in Ohio. You will submit your Summary Statement of the Complaint and Demand for Relief in the publication specified by the court and this notice must be published at least once a week for six consecutive weeks. Upon the last day of publication, Ohio deems that service of process has been effected. Twenty-eight days after the end of the six-week period of publication, return to court to inform them that your spouse did or did not respond to the publication. If your spouse did not respond, the court will proceed with the divorce as an uncontested action.

Important Consideration

Divorce by publication in Ohio does not cover spousal support, since the former spouse was not personally served. Accordingly, a separate action must be taken once the spouse has been located.