Service by Publication - Filing for Custody When the Other Parent is Missing

Jun 13, 2017

If you are filing for custody & the other parent is missing these are steps for a service by publication.

Several times a year I have a client come to me for a consultation and they want to file a lawsuit to get custody of their child. The problem they are facing is the other parent may have been missing for months or even years. And the other parent feels stuck because they know they are required by law to give that parent notice of the lawsuit but they can't find that person.

Check with your state's statutes because there should be a provision within those statutes for service by publication. What that means if you cannot find the person then you can serve the person by publishing notice of the lawsuit in a special periodical. In Arizona we have several different newspapers where you can publish notice of a lawsuit. You're basically just putting it out there in case the person is reading that something has been filed and that they need to respond.

There are special rules depending on your state about how long you have to run the publication. It's usually several consecutive weeks in a row. Once you've complied with that you need to let the court know what you've done to get the party served. Hopefully the court will accept that as proper service of the other party.

So that option is out there in case you don't know where your ex is and you want to file a lawsuit. Before you do this, a judge is going to want to know that you have exhausted every option for finding the other parent before going to service by publication. In many situations if I have a client who doesn't know where there ex is, I have them hire a private investigator to try and track that person down.

We ask family members, we ask friends, we go to residences...We have the investigator write up an affadavit telling the court these are all the steps I went through to try and find the person, and that it didn't turn up any results and that service by publication is the best way to give the other party notice that a lawsuit is happening.

If you skip straight to service by publication without trying to track that person down, your judge is probably not going to accept service by publication as proper service. So you are going to have to take some steps beforehand.

So if you are afraid you are never going to get custody of your child because the other party is missing and you need to give them notice, that is just not the case. Read the laws in your state or if you need to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction that is an option.

It comes in handy having custody even when the other parent is not around and is not involved because as one example. What if you want to go out of the country to go on vacation? You are going to need to get a passport for that child and in order to get a passport, you are going to need some documents that you need to show the court that you have custody of your child.

It can come up in other situations as well..with schools or doctors so just because the other parent is not involved it doesn't mean that you don't need to get that order by the court saying you are the sole custodian.


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