How Do I Serve The Divorce Summons When I Don't Know Where My Ex-To-Be Is

I don't know where my ex-to-be is, how do I get him/her personally served with the divorce summons? NY by statute requires personal service of a divorce summons on the defendant. The concept is that the dissolution of a marriage and all of the resulting consequences whether financial, custodial or otherwise are such life significant events that the person being sued should be given the best opportunity to respond by having been personally served with the summons.

However, there are some spouses that have disappeared. They may be in a different state or country, they may not hold a driver's license, they may not speak English, they may not have locatable relatives and so finding such a person could be nearly impossible for the purpose of personal service.

In order to get permission to serve in an "alternative" manner, court permission must be sought. For many years the courts would direct after receiving an affidavit of diligence as to all the attempts to locate the spouse that publication would be deemed an acceptable alternative and adequate. All lawyers know that service by publication is really a legal fiction because hardly anyone reads the legal notices published in any newspaper and thus notice will not realistically take place.

Technology has developed such that the courts can create a different remedy to this problem. If the person has an active email address or an active social media account the court, if satisfied that the account is in use by the spouse, may direct service by email or by instant message or a similar digital manner as the alternative method of service. If the plaintiff spouse can show that the account is used, read or that there is correspondence coming from the account, the court if satisfied as to ownership and control of the account may direct service in that manner.

Realistically, actual notice is much more likely through a utilized email or social media account than by publication in a local newspaper that may not even be in the state or country where the spouse resides.

So if you are in this situation, the first steps will be to show the court by affidavit what attempts have been made to locate the person and to explain why those methods were unsuccessful and then to show the court that the email or social media account is being actively utilized. An experienced matrimonial attorney will be able to guide their client through this process.