In order to begin a divorce proceeding in the state of Illinois, the divorcing party must notify their spouse that a petition for divorce was filed with the court. This is referred to as service of process, and it is accomplished in a number of ways. You may secure the assistance of a county sheriff or you may hire a professional process server to personally serve your spouse. It seems easy enough; but what happens if you are unable to find your spouse? You may have lost touch or your spouse may intentionally hide her whereabouts from you. Fortunately, the Illinois legislature put procedures in place to assist the filing party, while upholding the rights of the responding party.
A Good Faith Effort
Illinois courts require you to put forth a diligent and good faith attempt at locating your spouse. This means that you actually must put some effort into your search. Some reasonable means of searching include:
- Reviewing telephone directories in the area of your spouse’s last known residence;
- Calling relatives and friends to inquire about your spouse’s whereabouts;
- Contacting your spouse’s last known employer;
- Inquiring about any forwarding address at the post office;
- Inquiring with the voter registrar at the last known address; and
- Checking county records for any property ownership.
If you take these steps and you still cannot locate your spouse, you can ask the courts to allow an alternative form of service. Before doing so, you must sign and submit a sworn affidavit regarding your efforts at location and continuous inability to locate your spouse.
Service by Publication
Service by publication is a newspaper announcement about the petition for divorce. It must include:
- The title of the court where the action is pending;
- The names of both spouses;
- A deadline date for the absent spouse to file a response; and
- Notification that after such date, a default judgment will be entered against the absent spouse.
The cost of publication is passed on to you by the court and the ad must run weekly for three successive weeks. If the absent spouse files a response with the court, the case continues as a contested or uncontested divorce. If the absent spouse fails to file a timely response, the petitioning spouse can receive a default divorce judgment from the court. This is a granting of the divorce in one spouse’s absence. However, the court cannot make custody determinations or divide property in a publication proceeding.
In this age of social media, new methods of publication may soon become available to Illinois residents. According to an article in the Washington Post, a New York family court judge recently allowed a woman to serve her absentee husband over Facebook. She had to first prove that the Facebook page was in fact his and that he diligently logged into his account. Her attorney then sent the divorce petition to his Facebook account and the case proceeded through the courts.
Let Us Help You Today
Contact the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. today for assistance with your divorce case. Serving clients in Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lombard, our attorneys are available to assist you and your family.