What if My Spouse Evades Service of the Divorce Papers?
Any divorce case in Florida begins with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. After the filing of this petition, the petitioner is required to serve the divorce papers to the other spouse, typically this is done in person through the sheriff or a certified server; however the in person service cannot complete their alternate ways to serve divorce papers to your spouse. You cannot tell the court that you cannot find your spouse to use those alternative methods, because under Florida law, the petitioner must exercise due diligence when attempting to find her absent spouse to proceed with divorce process.
Simply put, if you cannot find your spouse to serve papers, you have to exhaust all reasonable efforts to find him or her before the court may find an alternative service method.
What is due diligence when attempting to locate an absent spouse? You have to exercise due diligence when you contact your spouse’s current or last known employer. Contact known friends and family members, check spouse’s social media accounts, monitor their bank account and credit card transactions.
After this, if you cannot find your spouse, then the court is going to issue a citation by publication, which means they are going to publish a notice in the newspaper that notifies the absent spouse of the divorce. When filing an affidavit with the court, you have to be able to prove that you exercised due diligence while attempting to locate your spouse, so make sure you keep screenshots and other records.
There are drawbacks to citation by publication, because while it is good for those who cannot locate their spouse and this may be the only way to proceed with divorce, a default will be entered against the absent spouse. A default allows you to finalize the divorce, the court may not be able to award alimony or child support, divide property and debt, establish a time sharing agreement and other such things that would be done in a traditional divorce. All of these things can only be done if your spouse returns, and if you cannot locate your spouse and wish to proceed with your divorce contact a family law lawyer.
You may have questions about who is allowed to hand the papers to your spouse, anyone who is 18 or older but it cannot be you. It can be a family member, friend, somebody who is a professional process server. Can the papers be given to someone other than your spouse such as your spouse’s mother, no they may not. These papers must be given to your spouse directly, not to someone else. There is an exception, and that the papers can be given to someone of suitable age and discretion who lives in the same home with your spouse. However you will have to be able to convince a judge that your spouse lives with this other person.