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Can't Locate your Spouse? How to Serve Divorce Documents on the MIA.

There are several ways to serve your spouse after you have filed for divorce. No matter what method you choose, it must be done. But what if you haven't been able to locate your ex? Follow the steps below to get it done.

In order to satisfy the court requirement for service, you may Petition the court for an Order allowing Posting or Publication. Posting means that you will physically post the Divorce docouments at the courthouse, and Publishing means that you will have a newspaper publish the legal notice in a newspaper (where the spouse was last known to live); here are the steps to make sure you get your Petition approved.


  1. Mail a letter to the last known address you have for your spouse. This should be done with a note on the envelope that reads "Return Service Requested. Do not Forward." This will notify the Post Office that you would like the piece of mail returned to you if not deliverable. It will also notify you of a current address if they have a forward mail request on file with the USPS. **Be sure to read the court rules, sometimes the court wants it mailed via Certified Mail.

  2. Search Social Media: Search all social media avenues (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Ancestry). Don't stop at just searching for your spouse, search for their family members, friends, co-workers or anybody else that may know their whereabouts.

  3. Search the County, State and Federal correction facilities in the state of California. If they are incarcerated, you will be able to serve them in the jail/prison.

  4. Locate any friends, relatives, co-workers of your spouse to obtain the whereabouts or last known information. Even if they just know a city where your spouse was living, it could be helpful in locating them.

  5. Online directories and background checks. These reports sometimes do cost money, but typically only a few dollars for some very useful information. They sometimes have current addresses, phone numbers, employers, property or criminal convictions which could help tract the spouse down.

  6. If you know where your ex last worked, try calling them and asking if they have any information that can help you in locating your ex.

  7. Search the County Recorder's database for property, liens, fictititous business name statements or other recorded documents.

  8. Search the County Court website to see if there are any other pending cases where your ex is a party. If you do find something, you can request the file from the court and review the information to help you locate him/her.

  9. Search the State Licensing Board, you may be able to find out if they have a professional license, which will help you locate them.

  10. Be creative! If there are other avenues that aren't listed here, use them!


  1. Prepare your documents for an Order to Post/Publish FL-980. If you have been approved for a fee waiver, then you will submit your request for posting. If you do not have a fee waiver your request will be for Publication.

  2. Submit your Application for Order to Post/Publish to the court with 2 copies along with an Order for Publication / Posting FL-982.

  3. Wait - it usually takes a few days to a week to get an answer back from the Court. You should get something mailed to you approving or denying your request. If you did not do enough research the Judge may order you to take additional steps to locate the spouse. If approved - congratulations move on to Step 3!


  1. If you received an order to Post, have someone (not you) take it to the Court and post it along with the Order. Most courts have a lobby bulletin board where it can be posted. It needs to be posted for 28 days. The person who posted, must also complete the Proof of Service and file it with the Court and service is complete!

  2. If you have an Order to Publish, know in advance that publication can be pricey - typically it ranges between $200.00 to $500.00 depending on your County and paper. The Court will usually give you a list of approved newspapers that your legal notice must be placed in. Call around and find the cheapest paper and have them publish. The ad will run for 4 weeks. The newspaper will complete the proof of publishing to file with the court. Once this is filed, service is complete!

If you need assistance in locating your spouse or preparing a Request to Post/Publish, please contact my office today for a free quote/consultation. Diablo LDA & Attorney Services offers self-help services to our clients at a flat rate price, which helps our clients save time & money.

This article is not to be construed as legal advice. Diablo LDA & Attorney Services is not a law firm and cannot offer legal advice or represent you in court. Diablo LDA & Attorney Services can provide self-help services at your specific direction.

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