In California, serving the respondent in a divorce can be challenging. Under certain circumstances, you can petition the court for permission to serve the respondent with divorce papers ”by publication” or “by posting.”  “Service by publication” means the court Summons and other required documentation is published in a local newspaper of general circulation. Read on to learn more about how to serve by publication in California and how A People’s Choice can help you.

How to Serve By Publication in California Divorce

Local court rules require that the newspaper publication is in the last known area that the respondent is known to have lived.  The summons must be published at least once a week for 4 consecutive weeks. “Service by posting” means the court clerk posts the Summons and any additional documentation at the courthouse.  In order to obtain the court’s permission to serve by publication or posting, you must prove to the court that you have diligently tried to find the respondent but were unsuccessful in your attempts. 

Service of Process By Publication or Posting

To start service of process by publication or posting in California, complete FL-980, Application for Order for Publication or Posting.  Take detailed notes regarding your efforts to serve your spouse. Every court requires different “efforts” to be made in serving a party. Contact the court clerk to confirm the requirements. When you complete form FL-980, check the appropriate box as to whether you will post the notice by publication or posting.

Service by Posting: If you qualify for a fee waiver, the court will allow you to serve by posting rather than publication. Through “posting” the court clerk posts the divorce notice in a conspicuous location at the courthouse. After the statutory posting period, the Respondent is considered served.

Service by posting is complete at the end of the 30th day after the first date the summons and complaint are posted by the Court Clerk. The defendant has 30 days after the 30th day of the first day of posting within which to respond.

Service by Publication: If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, you will need to request the court to serve by publication. Contact the court to provide you with a list of approved newspapers for publication.

Service by publication will be complete after the 28th day of the first date the document has been published. The defendant has 30 days after the 28th day of the first publication within which to respond. (Gov. Code Section 6064)

Obtain Order for Publication or Posting: Complete the Order for Publication Form, FL-982. File all of the required forms with the court clerk. Once you get the court’s permission to file by publication or posting, you will need to complete the posting or publication notice requirement. If the court approved the notice to be posted, the Court Clerk will automatically complete the posting process. If the court approved notice to be published, you will need to arrange the notice to be published in the designated newspaper. Item 6 of Form FL-982 will designate the documentation that must be published.

How to Arrange Newspaper Publication:  Take the form to the newspaper and pay all applicable fees. The fee for publication can vary greatly, however on average you can expect to pay between $150 to $250 for this process. Once the publication is complete, the newspaper will provide you with an affidavit confirming that your documentation was published. File the original affidavit with the court.

Whether you use service by posting or service by publication, if you locate the respondent during the publication or posting period, you must have a neutral third-party who is 18-years or older mail a copy of the documents identified in item 6 to his/her home. The server will have to complete and file a Proof of Service.

When the Judge Denies Request to Serve by Posting or Publication

The criteria for approving an application for posting or publication of a divorce Summons can vary dramatically between judges. Some courts are quite lenient with regards to approving a request to publish. They simply want to see that a basic effort has been made to determine the whereabouts of a spouse. Other judges require proof that greater efforts have been made to find the Respondent. This may include attaching a search report by a private investigator or proof that you have searched for a change of address through the post office. Some judges require supporting documentation showing other attempts to find the missing person. If the judge has denied your request to serve by publication, we can help you try to correct the problem.

Where to Get Help

If you are searching for answers on how to serve by publication in California divorce, contact A People’s Choice. Our office can prepare the forms you need to request service of process by publication and help with the various steps needed to complete this process.  In addition to preparing the required forms, we can file the documentation for you as well and arrange the required posting or publication. Contact us to learn how.  Call 1-800-747-2780 to speak with us or to learn more about service of process by publication.

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