Service by Publication or Posting - Family Law Cases

If you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse or domestic partner in order to properly serve him or her with your filed Summons and Petition (or some other document), you can ask the court for permission to serve your papers "by publication" or "by posting."

  • "Service by publication" means that you publish the Summons or other document in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where your spouse or partner is likely to be. For service by publication, you will have to pay the newspaper a fee to publish the document. It will have to be published for 4 weeks in a row, at least once a week.

  • "Service by posting" means that the court clerk posts the Summons or other document in a visible place designated for court notices at the courthouse. To serve by posting, you must qualify for a court fee waiver.

To get the court's permission to serve by publication or by posting, you will have to prove to the court that you tried as hard as possible to find your spouse or partner. Follow the steps below to fill out your request to serve by publication or posting. Your court's family law facilitator or self-help center may also be able to help you.

To ask the court to allow you to serve your court papers by publication or posting:

  1. Try to find your spouse or domestic partner in order to serve him or her.
    Look for your spouse or partner. Take detailed notes on your efforts to find him or her. Page 2, Item 5 of Form FL-980 gives you some ideas of what to do to find your spouse or partner. Every court is slightly different in what they require so read your court’s local rules or ask your court clerk or self-help center to find out what efforts your court will require. For more ideas, click for tips to help you find someone.

  2. Fill out an Application for Order for Publication or Posting (Form FL-980).
    On this form:

    • Check the box for publication or for posting, depending on which one you are asking for. You must qualify for a fee waiver in order to get permission to serve by posting. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, you can ask to serve by publication.

      • If you are asking to serve by publication, ask your court's family law facilitator or self-help center, or the court clerk for a list of approved newspapers for publication in your county. You may want to call several of the newspapers since fees vary greatly. Write down the name of the newspaper you choose in Item 1 of your Application (Form FL-980).

      • If you are asking to serve by posting, ask your court's family law facilitator or self-help center where the location for posting is in your courthouse and write down that information on Item 2 of your Application (Form FL-980).

    • On page 2, Item 5 of Form FL-980 describe, in detail, what efforts you made to find your spouse or partner in order to serve him or her.

    • If you need more space, you can attach a declaration. You can use a blank sheet of paper or use a Declaration (Form MC-030).

    • Also attach any other documents showing your search results.

  3. If you are asking for permission to do service by posting, fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001).
    Find out how to ask for a fee waiver. If you already have an order for a waiver of fees in this case, you do not have to fill out a new request for ask for permission to serve by posting. 

  4. Fill out the caption (top box) of the Order for Publication or Posting (Form FL-982).

  5. Make 1 copy of your Application (Form FL-980) and any attachments.

  6. File your forms with the court clerk.
    Take the original and 1 copy of the Application for Order for Publication or Posting (Form FL-980), and your partially completed Order for Publication for Publication or Posting (Form FL-982) to the court clerk to file. The clerk will keep the original and give you the copy stamped "Filed." The clerk will then give the filed Application and proposed Order to the judge for review. The judge will make a decision on your request. Ask the clerk when you should return to find out the judge's decision.

  7. Pick up the Order for Publication for Publication or Posting (Form FL-982) from the clerk to find out what the judge ordered.

If you get permission to serve by publication or posting

For service by publication:

  1. Look at Item 1 of Form FL-982 to see the name of the newspaper in which you must publish your papers, and then at Item 6 to see which documents have to be published in the newspaper.

  2. Take Form FL-982 to the newspaper, pay the fee, and have them publish the required document (the one listed in Item 6, and NOT Form FL-982 itself) at least once per week for 4 weeks in a row.

  3. After the publication is complete, the newspaper must give you an affidavit confirming that the document was published and a copy of the notice that appeared in the newspaper. Make a copy for yourself and file the original with the court (if the newspaper did not do it already).

  4. Service by publication is complete at the end of the 28th day after the first date the document is published in the newspaper.

    • If your spouse or partner does not file a response, you as the petitioner can file a Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165) starting on the 59th day after the first day the document was published in the newspaper. Click to learn about Default Cases.

  5. If at any point during the 28 days of publication you find your spouse or partner's address, you must have someone 18 or older mail a copy of the documents listed in Item 6 to him or her. Your server then has to fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and return to you to file with the court.

For service by posting:

  1. Look at Item 2 of Form FL-982 to see where at the courthouse the documents must be posted and where they must be mailed to your spouse or partner. Look at Item 6 to see which documents have to be posted and mailed.

  2. Have someone 18 or older, not you, post a copy of Form FL-982 AND the document listed in Item 6 at the required court location. The documents must stay posted for 28 days in a row.

    • Have your server who posts the documents fill out a declaration under penalty of perjury saying he or she posted the documents. Your server can use the Proof of Service of Posting (Form FL-985), and return it to you so you can file it with the court.

  3. Have someone 18 or older, not you, mail a copy of Form FL-982 AND the document listed in Item 6 to your spouse's or partner's last known address.

    • Your server then has to fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and return to you to file with the court.

  4. Service by posting is complete at the end of the 28th day after the first date the document is posted.

    • If your spouse or partner does not file a response, you as the petitioner can file a Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165) starting on the 59th day after the first day the document was published in the newspaper. Click to learn about Default Cases.

  5. If at any point during the 28 days of posting you find your spouse or partner's current address, you must have someone 18 or older mail a copy of the documents listed in Item 6 to him or her. Your server then has to fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and return to you to file with the court.

If the judge denies your request

Your request to serve by publication or posting may be denied. If so, look at what boxes the judge checked as reasons for the denial and try to correct the problem if possible.

The 2 most common reasons for denying your request are that:

OR

If you asked for permission to serve by posting, the judge may have also denied your request because he or she decided you did not qualify for a fee waiver. In that case, Item 6 on the Order (Form FL-982) may be checked with information on a court hearing where you can present proof of your financial situation. At that hearing, if they judge still finds you can afford the publication, you may get a court order allowing you to serve by publication and just pay for the newspaper publication fees.

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