Filing Suit Against Someone Whose Whereabouts Are Unknown

When a divorce or other lawsuit is filed, there is a process of citation issued for the party who is being sued. Usually, this legal citation is personally served on the person who is the respondent in the lawsuit.  (If the respondent is a company, the citation will be served on the registered agent, director or owner of the company or some else legally authorized to accept the service). This gives legal notice of the suit.

But sometimes a party is nowhere to be found.  What then? These cases can and do proceed.   There are alternative methods of providing service to persons and companies. These alternative methods, if done correctly, provide legal and valid service of the suit so that it can proceed to completion.   The Plaintiff can have his/her day in court even if the other party is unable or unwilling to be found.
If regular service is unsuccessful because of unknown whereabouts (or if someone is avoiding service on purpose), the judge can grant a motion to serve the party in an alternative way, for example by posting or publication.   The judge will want to know what has been done to serve the party in the traditional way, and will require proof of these attempts.
 The fact that the case can proceed is good news, however, the case may proceed more slowly, or require additional expenses (depending on the type case it is). If you must file a suit against someone whose whereabouts are unknown, be sure to collect whatever information that you do have. You will need to show that you have made diligent efforts to discover this information.  When working with a lawyer, bring the information to the initial meeting so that the lawyer can assist you with efforts to find the person and tell you what additional steps or expense will be required in your case if the person cannot be found.
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