By Robert L. Mues   |   November 9th, 2019

Ohio Court Can Publish Divorce Complaint In Local Newspaper If The Address Of Missing Spouse Is Unknown

divorce service of process missing spouseTypically when a divorce is filed the adverse spouse is served with the summons, divorce complaint and other required documents. This can be accomplished a number of ways as set forth in the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure.  Obtaining “service of process” is essential for the Court to obtain jurisdiction over the matter and to proceed with your case and issue orders over support, property division, custody etc. All states require that the opposing spouse receive a copy of the divorce papers typically delivered by a private process server (especially if there are any restraining orders).


Most states have a law or civil rule about the requirements to utilize the service by publication provision when the address of the defendant is unknown.

Ohio Civil Rule 4.4(A) permits an individual to be served by publication when his or her address is unknown. To serve a defendant by publication when the defendant’s address is unknown, the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel must file an affidavit with the court indicating the following:

  1. That service of summons cannot be made because the residence of the defendant is unknown;
  2. All reasonable efforts have been made on behalf of the plaintiff to find the address of your spouse; and
  3. That the residence of the defendant after undertaking such actions cannot be determined.

According to the rule, upon the filing of the affidavit, the clerk shall cause service of notice to be made by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the complaint is filed. If no newspaper is published in that county, then publication shall be in a newspaper published in an adjoining county. The publication shall contain the name and address of the court, the case number, the name of the first party on each side, and the name and last known address, if any, of the person or persons whose residence is unknown.


The publication also shall contain a summary statement of the object of the complaint and demand for relief, and shall notify the person to be served that he or she is required to answer within twenty-eight days after the publication. The publication shall be published at least once a week for six successive weeks unless publication for a lesser number of weeks is specifically provided by law. Service shall be complete at the date of the last publication.

After the last publication, the publisher or its agent shall file with the court an affidavit showing the fact of publication together with a copy of the notice of publication. The affidavit and copy of the notice shall constitute proof of service.


To comply with number 2 above, you MUST make a diligent investigation to locate your spouse. Typically, that would include the following actions:

  1. Contacting your spouse’s friends and relatives and former employers.
  2. Search of the Division of Motor Vehicles records.
  3. Send a certified mail letter to the spouse’s last known address with “RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED” written on the envelope.
  4. Go online to check your spouse’s votor registration (which show the address). In Ohio, click here to go to the Ohio voter search tool.
  5. Google your spouse and search Facebook, social media and the internet.

If you have any questions about divorcing a missing spouse in the Dayton, Ohio area, please call us at 937 293-2141 to schedule an appointment with one of our divorce lawyers.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.

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