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What is Service by Publication?

  • August 26, 2011
  • by ServeNow Staff

Service by publicationWhen a legal action is initiated against a defendant, and that defendant cannot be found to accept delivery of legal documents, service by publication may be permitted by a judge's order. This process refers to official notification published in the newspaper. Notice of publication must conform to certain legislated guidelines in the areas of process and format. It is commonly used in divorce actions to serve divorce papers to a spouse who cannot be found.

How Does Service by Publication Work?

This process refers to the act of serving a summons or another legal document pertaining to a lawsuit by publishing it in a general-circulation newspaper. It gives “constructive notice” to an unknown, intentionally absent or in-hiding defendant. Constructive notice assumes that the defendant receives the notice even when not delivered in person. This service of process is permitted only on a judge’s order after a sworn declaration has been given of the failure to locate the defendant after exercising due diligence. The court considers publication effective whether or not it is read by the defendant.

When is Service by Publication Allowed?

The three main methods of delivering service of process are personal service, substituted service and service by publication. Hiring a professional process server to attempt personal or substituted service is usually your best first step, since they are trained to locate and serve hard-to-find people. If even the process server cannot locate a defendant, your next step is publication in a newspaper (if the judge allows it).

How Long Does the Service Take?

Generally the notice must be published in the newspaper more than once, such as once a week for a number of weeks. When a certain time has lapsed since initial publication, such as 30 days, the service is considered complete.

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