Serving Divorce Papers by Publication in Arizona
When you file for divorce you are required to serve those divorce papers on your spouse. If you fail to serve those divorce papers on your spouse, the court will eventually dismiss your Arizona divorce case. So, what can you do if your spouse is avoiding the process server or you cannot locate your spouse for some other reason? In Arizona, you may be able to serve your spouse by a means referred to as “service by publication”.
Service of divorce papers by publication simple means you publish your divorce papers in a section of a local newspaper where your spouse is believed to reside for a certain period of time. You, thereafter, would then file an Application and Affidavit of Default, attend a default hearing, present some evidence to the court, and then obtain a default divorce.
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the published decision of Ruffino v. Lokosky issued a ruling that may impact what you must do before serving divorce papers by publication in an Arizona divorce case. Although the Ruffino case was not a divorce, the ruling should arguably apply in a divorce case in Arizona.
Service of Divorce Petition in Arizona by Publication
In the Ruffino case, the plaintiff served the complaint by publishing the complaint and summons in a local newspaper after not being able to successfully serve that complaint and summons on the defendant. The plaintiff then defaulted the defendant and was awarded a large judgment against the defendant. The defendant then moved to set the default judgment aside. The trial court set the default judgment aside and the plaintiff appealed.
The plaintiff hired a skip tracer to attempt to locate the defendant in order to serve the defendant with a process server. The skip tracer located three possible residential addressed for the defendant. The process server made several attempts at each of the addresses identified by the process server. At no time did the process server identify himself as a process server attempting to serve the defendant with the complaint and summons.
The plaintiff then moved the court for permission to serve the complaint and summons by publication, which the court denied. Despite that denial, the plaintiff made additional attempts at serving the papers after which the plaintiff published the complaint and summons in a local newspaper.
The trial court subsequently entered a default against the defendant and awarded the plaintiff a sizeable judgment. It should be noted that the rule pertaining to service by publication now no longer requires a plaintiff to ask the court for permission to serve by publication, so long as the correct rule is followed correctly.
Alternatives to Service by Publication in Arizona
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that securing personal jurisdiction over a defendant only occurs when proper service of those papers are made upon a defendant and failing to do so deprives the court of personal jurisdiction over a defendant rendering any judgment entered thereafter void.
The Arizona Court of Appeals indicated the plaintiff had many ways to make contact with the defendant, including emailing the divorce papers to the defendant, contacting the defendant by telephone, and reaching out to her on her social media accounts to verify where the defendant was living in order to personally serve the complaint and summons.
The Arizona Court of Appeals commented that these other means of communicating with the defendant were more likely to give the defendant notice of the lawsuit than publishing the complaint and summons in a local newspaper. The Court of Appeals noted the plaintiffs should have asked for permission from the court to serve by these other means, such as email or other electronic means.
Contact our experienced Phoenix and Scottsdale Arizona divorce attorneys at (480)305-8300 to discuss your Arizona divorce case.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about service of divorce by publication in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce laws in Arizona. Chris is a divorce attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce.