Divorce by Publication: The missing divorce respondent

Californiais a no fault state. This means that you can get a divorce without having to prove fault of your spouse. In any divorce proceeding, service of the divorce petition on the other spouse is necessary. No court will grant a divorce unless the other spouse is served with the papers.

Spouse Untraceable

If you know where to find your spouse and serve the divorce papers on him or her, there should be no problem. However if your spouse is untraceable, then you will have problems. UnderCalifornialaw, if you cannot trace your spouse and serve the papers on him or her, you can apply for a divorce by publication. However you must convince the court that you made a diligent and good faith search to locate your spouse.

Diligent Search

UnderCalifornialaw, to make a diligent and good faith search, you must:

  • search the phone book of the place where your spouse lives or was last known to have lived.
  • check with the post office of the place where your spouse was last known to have live for any forwarding address left by your spouse
  • check with friends and relatives of your spouse
  • check property and tax records office
  • check with the Motor Vehicles Department
  • check with known employers and landlords, both present and past
  • check the voter registry
  • hire the services of a private investigator and then draw a blank


To apply for a divorce by publication, you must submit an application for publication of summons along with a declaration in support. In your application you must document the steps you took to locate your missing spouse. A judge will hear you and then decide on your application. If the judge is satisfied that you are unable to locate your missing spouse despite diligent and good faith search, the judge will order publication of the summons. The summons must then be published once every week for 4 consecutive weeks. Between two successive publications, there should be a gap of at least 5 days. If your missing spouse does not respond within 30 days, you can file request the court to grant a default dissolution of marriage. This 30 day time period begins to run from the 28th day after the first publication. There is no hearing. You just need to provide proof of the publication. You will get your final divorce decree six months after the first publication.


The courts can only grant you a divorce but will not decide on any other issue relating to the divorce such as property distribution, child custody, visitation and support in the absence of your spouse.


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