Divorce – Service by Publication | Georgia Attorneys

Divorce with Service by Publication

Georgia Divorce Attorneys

Coleman Legal Group, LLC

Phone: 470-947-2471

What Is Divorce with Service by Publication?

Divorce - Service by Publication | Georgia Divorce Attorneys | Phone: 470-947-2471

When you file for a divorce in Georgia you must first file a complaint or petition for divorce with the court (Complaint for Divorce).  In the Complaint for Divorce, you will set forth the basic facts of your marriage and divorce, such as date of marriage, date of separation, the grounds for divorce and prayers for relief.  Then, your next step is to serve the Complaint for Divorce along with a court document called a Summons on your spouse.  Your divorce case can proceed only after your spouse is served properly with the divorce documents.

But what if your spouse has moved out of the state or even out of the country and you have no idea where the spouse went?  Under Georgia law, one way of serving your spouse in such cases is to make use of “service by publication.”  Georgia has its own specific rules regarding how service may be accomplished by publication.  Below will give you some idea of service by publication in Georgia.

But what if your spouse has never lived in Georgia, but still cannot be found?  Under Georgia law, one way of serving your spouse that cannot be found in Georgia or anywhere else is by “service by publication.”  Georgia has its own specific rules regarding how service may be accomplished by publication.  Below will give you some idea of service by publication in Georgia.

Divorce with Service by Publication in Georgia

Sometimes, however, you cannot locate your spouse because he or she have moved out of the city or state without telling you a forwarding address.  Other times, your spouse may be residing in another state or country and cannot be found to be served with a divorce case.  Also, in other cases you may not know where your spouse is because you and your spouse has lived apart for a long time without filing for divorce and you have lost contact with your spouse.  More frequently, a spouse may be secluding their self for various reasons, and telling their friends and family to not disclose where they are or how they can be contacted.

In any event, if you do not know where your spouse lives or work, neither a sheriff nor a private process server will be able to serve the spouse.  In these situations, Georgia courts may allow you to complete “service by publication.”  By using service by publication, a plaintiff can serve their spouse (the defendant) with notice of their Complaint for Divorce and Summons by publishing notice in a court-approved newspaper or other publication.  Each county in Georgia has an a court approved newspaper called a “legal organ” for publishing legal notices.  Publication satisfies constructive notice to the defendant, meaning that publishing information is sufficient to fulfill the notice requirement and the petition for divorce may proceed even where the defendant have not actually received notice.  See O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(1)(A), courts require a plaintiff to attempt “personal service” before allowing service by publication.  In addition, the plaintiff must complete and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search form stating all efforts the plaintiff has made to locate the defendant.  If the court is satisfied with the plaintiff’s effort and convinced that the spouse cannot be found, it will issue an Order of Publication authorizing service to be published in the official, legal newspaper.  It is important to note, that the court may require The notice must appear four (4) times within the first sixty (60) days after filing a lawsuit and each run of the publication must be at least seven (7) days apart. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(1)(C)].  The publication is often in the county where the action is filed.  The defendant has sixty (60) days to answer or respond to the Complaint for Divorce.

After the sixty (60) day period, the case can proceed whether or not the defendant has responded.  In Georgia, the court can grant a divorce or enforce judgment against the defendant on his or her property situated in Georgia without personal jurisdiction over a defendant (in other words even if the defendant did not respond to service by publication).

The following can be granted or decided in a divorce which is served by publication:

  • the actual granting of the divorce by the court with a court order
  • the division of the parties’ assets and personal property located within the state of Georgia
  • the division of Real Property (land, house, etc.) that is located within the state of Georgia
  • the division of the parties’ debts
  • custody of a child(ren) that currently lives with the petitioner / plaintiff requesting the divorce

Without personal (in person) service of the Complaint for Divorce, Georgia courts generally will not make any final decisions regarding the following:

  • child support
  • alimony
  • custody of a child(ren) that is residing with the defendant
  • division of property situated outside of Georgia
  • division of debts that the parties are jointly obligated

However, these issues can be resolved later when and if the defendant spouse is ever found and they are personally served with a subsequent petition to resolve these issues.  However, in most divorce cases this is not done or needed.

You need to properly serve the divorce document to your spouse or otherwise your divorce case can be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.  In most cases, a sheriff or private process server may personally serve your spouse.  But in cases where your spouse cannot be located or is missing, Georgia court may allow you to complete service by publication.  In order to properly serve your spouse by publication, you must comply with the procedural rules of Georgia.  Also, if you later find out where your spouse lives, then you may be required to amend your petition to be served personally on the other side and have that person personally served (by a sheriff) with a copy of your petition.  Because service of process directly relates to a court’s jurisdiction and dismissal of your case, be sure to consult with a local attorney.

Divorce with Service by Publication Under Georgia Law

Georgia’s Civil Practice Act states that if:  “the person on whom service is to be made resides outside the state, or has departed from the state, or cannot, after due diligence, be found within the state, or conceals himself or herself to avoid the service of the summons, […] the judge or clerk may grant an order that the service be made by the publication of summons.”  Service by publication may only be used as a means of service if the address or location where the defendant may be found is unknown.  See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(1)(a).

The Georgia Civil Practice Act goes further states:  When the court orders service by publication, the clerk shall cause the publication to be made in the paper in which sheriff’s advertisements are printed, four times within the ensuing sixty (60) days, publications to be at least seven (7) days apart.  The party obtaining the order shall, at the time of filing, deposit the cost of publication.  The published notice shall contain the name of the parties plaintiff and defendant, with a caption setting forth the court, the character of the action, the date the action was filed, the date of the order for service by publication, and a notice directed and addressed to the party to be thus served, commanding him or her to file with the clerk and serve upon the plaintiff’s attorney an answer within sixty (60) days of the date of the order for service by publication and shall bear teste in the name of the judge and shall be signed by the clerk of the court.  See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4.

What Is Service of Process?

Service of process is a legal way by which a plaintiff gives an appropriate notice of the filing of a lawsuit to a defendant.  It makes sure that the defendant knows that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against him or her.  Under Georgia law, the plaintiff is required to serve both the summons and complaint upon the defendant personally if he or she is an individual, or upon an registered agent, president, other officer or managing agent if the defendant is a business entity. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(1)].  A Summons is a legal document that informs a defendant of a lawsuit filed and that requires the defendant to appear in court.  Once the plaintiff files a petition in the county’s clerk office, the clerk’s office will usually give the plaintiff a Summons.  In divorce cases, a plaintiff spouse must serve the Summons and Complaint for Divorce on a defendant spouse in order to initiate a case.

Until the defendant has received officially and properly the copy of the summons and complaint, the lawsuit cannot proceed.  It is only after proper service of process has been made on a defendant that the court obtains personal jurisdiction over the defendant to impose an enforceable judgment of liability and damages.  Without proper service of process, therefore, the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and the Complaint for Divorce must be dismissed.

Common Types of Service in Georgia

The most common type of service is “personal service.”  Personal service is delivering the copy of the summons and complaint directly to the defendant.  Pursuant to [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(c)], service will be made by sheriff of the county where the lawsuit is brought or where the defendant is found, or by private process server.  In a divorce action, you provide the sheriff with your spouse’s address and physical description and pay a small service fee.  The sheriff will then go to the address provided to deliver the copy of divorce paperwork to your spouse.  If the spouse refuses to answer the door or takes other evasive action and avoids service, you can hire a private individual to track down your spouse and hand him or her the papers.  Georgia law generally requires you to obtain a court approval before you hire such private individual. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(c)].  However, some courts in Georgia will allow any private process server on a list that is maintained by the county’s superior court to serve without a motion or hearing being required.

Although service has to be personal (that is to serve the defendant directly), if the defendant is not home the summons and complaint can be left with someone who lives in the home (a non-party adult or child over the age of 14).  This is called “substitute service,” which means that service is made by leaving copies at the defendant’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with a person who is over fourteen (14) years of age and resides therein. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7)]  Different jurisdictions allow different types of substitute service.  So be sure to check with your local court clerk’s office or an attorney before attempting substitute service.

Often in divorce cases, the defendant spouse may agree to sign an Acknowledge of Service form that confirms he or she has received the copy of the Summons and Complaint for Divorce and waives further personal service.  In this case, you can simply send the summons and complaint together with an Acknowledgment of Service form to your spouse by mail. If your spouse sends the form back to you, you can file it with the court.

How to Obtain Help With Your Case

A petitioner to serve a divorce by publication should not be taken lightly.  If not filed correctly, the court may dismiss an otherwise good case supported by facts, causing significant problems for the petitioner (filer of the case).  If you are facing divorce and cannot locate your spouse, it is important to speak with an experienced divorce and family law attorney early in the process to narrow down your options.  it is possible that serving your spouse by publication will be your best option.  Call us today at 470-947-2471 to speak with one of our experienced Georgia divorce and family law attorneys.  Contact >>

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Divorce and Family Law – Georgia Areas We Serve

Our Georgia divorce lawyers and family law attorneys handle cases in the following cities and communities: Atlanta, Alpharetta, Roswell, Duluth, Johns Creek, Milton, Cumming, Sharon Springs, Suwanee, Marietta, Woodstock, Sandy Springs, Kennesaw, Gainesville, Midtown Atlanta, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Buckhead, Dunwoody, Vinings, Smyrna, Buford, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, Decatur, Grant Park, East Atlanta, and Virginia Highlands.

Our Georgia divorce lawyers and family law attorneys frequently handle cases for clients residing in the following counties: Fulton, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, DeKalb, Henry, Cherokee, Douglas, Carroll, Coweta, Paulding, Bartow, Hall, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Rockdale, Henry, Spalding, Fayette, and Clayton.

Coleman Legal Group, LLC’s Georgia lawyers practice in the areas of Divorce, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Estates, Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, Sports and Entertainment Law, Immigration, and Business Law.

Our main office is located in Alpharetta Georgia at: 11539 Park Woods Circle, Suite 304, Alpharetta, GA 30005. 

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