What Is Divorce by Publication in Virginia?

couple filing for divorce by publication

Divorce by publication in Virginia is a legal process used when one spouse cannot be found or refuses to participate in the divorce proceedings. In a regular divorce, both spouses are served with divorce papers and have the chance to respond in court. However, when one spouse is missing, the court allows for service by publication to notify the absent spouse.

Here’s a general outline of how the process works:

  1. Diligent search: The spouse seeking the divorce must make a thorough effort to locate the missing spouse. This involves conducting searches, reaching out to family and friends, and checking public records. Detailed documentation of these efforts is usually required.
  2. Filing the petition: Once the diligent search is complete, the spouse seeking the divorce files a petition for divorce in the appropriate Virginia court. The petition should include a detailed account of the search conducted to locate the missing spouse.
  3. Notice by publication: If the court is satisfied with the search efforts, it may approve service by publication. This means publishing a notice of the divorce proceedings in a local newspaper where the missing spouse is believed to be residing or where they were last known to reside. The notice contains information about the divorce case, the parties involved, and a deadline for the missing spouse to respond.
  4. Waiting period: After the notice is published, a waiting period specified by law follows, usually a few weeks. This allows the missing spouse a chance to become aware of the divorce proceedings and respond if they wish to.
  5. Default judgment: If the missing spouse fails to respond within the specified time frame, the court may proceed with the divorce based on the information provided by the spouse seeking the divorce. This is known as a default judgment. The court considers the evidence presented and makes decisions on matters such as property division, child custody, and support.

It’s important to note that divorce by publication is typically a last resort after all other attempts to locate and serve the missing spouse have been unsuccessful. The court aims to ensure that both parties have a fair opportunity to participate in the proceedings. If the missing spouse later becomes aware of the divorce and can show a valid reason for not responding earlier, they may be able to challenge the default judgment.