How to File for Divorce with an Ad in the Newspaper

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to File for Divorce with an Ad in the Newspaper

By Christine Funk, J.D.

In every jurisdiction, there are rules about how to file a petition for divorce. One you must familiarize yourself with is that there are regulations around which court may properly hear your divorce petition. In some states, you must file in your county of residence. In other states, you must file in the county where you lived as a married couple. Still, others allow you to file in whatever county is convenient. In addition, all states have residency requirements. This means you or your spouse must live in the state for a certain amount of time before you can file for divorce there.

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Once you have determined the minimum residency requirements and appropriate jurisdiction, you are ready to file your petition. In cases when the whereabouts of your spouse are unknown, you may need to file for divorce by publication. Here are the general steps to do so.

1. File your divorce papers.

Depending on your state and its divorce laws, you must file a petition for dissolution of marriage or a divorce complaint to request a divorce. Different jurisdictions have slightly different forms. However, generally, you provide:

  • Identifying information for yourself
  • Identifying information for your spouse
  • The date you were married
  • You and your spouse's last known addresses
  • The length of time you've lived in the state
  • Your children's full names and dates of birth

You may file your completed petition or complaint in person, by mail, or electronically in some jurisdictions. You must also pay a filing fee when you file these papers. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask the court to waive it.

2. Serve your divorce papers and summons.

At the time of filing, you receive a summons. This is a document informing your spouse of their opportunity to respond to your divorce filing. You must legally provide the summons and notice of your filings, called service, to your spouse. You may not personally serve these documents. Instead, you must retain the services of a process server or ask the sheriff's office to serve both the summons and the petition or complaint on your spouse. If you are uncertain of your spouse's address, provide the last known address or any address where you think they may be staying.

3. Serve your divorce papers and summons by publication.

If your process server or the sheriff is unable to locate your spouse, you may serve the papers by publication. In other words, you may take steps to publish your divorce papers as a way of notifying your spouse of your intentions. Of course, there are rules about how to go about service by publication, and your court's website or court clerk can provide you with the necessary information. In most jurisdictions, you must have a judge sign an order for publication. Next, you must publish the legal announcement in a publication approved by the court. The clerk can provide you with a list of approved media publications.

Once you have identified the approved publication, determine the minimum number of days or weeks your legal announcement must run. Contact the publication and place a request for publication consistent with the rules of your state for length of time of publication. Again, expect to pay a fee for this service.

4. Provide the court with proof of publication.

Once you have published your announcement, obtain proof from the publication. This may be an affidavit or a simple form filled out by the newspaper. It should include the dates of publication. Attach this form to a copy of the published petition and summons and provide it to the court.

This proof allows the court clerk to schedule a hearing. At this hearing, you are allowed to proceed with your divorce case. Unless your spouse appears at the hearing, your requests for dissolution will likely be granted.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.