Last Updated On: January 14, 2022

What is Publication Divorce in New York?

What happens if you want a divorce from your spouse, but he or she can’t be found? While this isn’t common, it happens more frequently than you would imagine.

New York law requires that a spouse must be served divorce documents to give them an opportunity to respond. Unfortunately, when you don’t know where that person is, it’s difficult to serve them with divorce documents. That is where service by publication comes into play. Divorce lawyer Juan Luciano is here to discuss What is Publication Divorce in New York.

What is Service By Publication?

Service is the official delivery of a summons notifying the other spouse in a divorce. In most cases, this is delivered to that party in person. But when someone is not locatable, the court can agree to this service by other means than in person. In this case, the summons can be published in a local newspaper.

The original intention of service by publication was that a defendant in a divorce would either read the notice or someone they knew would read it and notify them. But we know that few people read the public notifications section of a newspaper. Still, this is the law and it remains the only way that a person seeking a divorce can serve their spouse by publication.

Searching For Your Spouse

Although it may sound simple, a publication divorce has to follow specific rules and guidelines under the law.

Service by publication is a two-step process. The first step is filing the summons with the court, thereby beginning a 120-day waiting period. During that time, you will make a diligent search for the other spouse. This will be done through various means, including

  • Sending paperwork by certified mail to the spouse’s last known address
  • Contacting the spouse’s last known place of employment
  • Contacting the spouse’s family members
  • Checking local hospitals and homeless shelters
  • Searching the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Searching phone or internet directories
  • Searching social media
  • Searching the U.S. military locator website
  • Searching through the Board of Elections
  • Searching New York criminal court records and the Federal Bureau of Prisons website
  • Searching the Social Security Death Index website


If you are unsuccessful, an affidavit is then prepared detailing these efforts, and you will ask permission from the court to serve by publication.

Serving by Publication

If the court agrees that you have made a sufficient attempt to find your spouse, a judge will grant your request to serve by publication.

The court will designate what publication you will be required to use, and you will need to get an affidavit of service from the publication stating that the summons was published. Your service is considered completed after the twenty-first day after the first date of publication.

A Method of Last Resort

Once the service requirement is met, you can then go forward and request that the court grant your divorce. But a divorce by publication can be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming, often requiring the assistance of private investigators and extra court costs. Unless there is no other option, these types of divorces should be used only as a last resort. There may be other ways to find your spouse before going through this official procedure. We can help.

Getting Legal Assistance

Navigating divorce is never easy, especially if your spouse cannot be located. At the law offices of Juan Luciano Divorce Lawyer, we will advise you of your options under the law and assist you in making the best decisions possible for your circumstances. Call us at (212) 537-5859 or contact us through our website contact page to schedule a consultation.


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