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Divorce by publication in Illinois: Not as easy as it sounds

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Actually, it is as easy as it sounds, if you qualify. The hard part is that it only applies to a small number of cases and it has to be approved by a judge.

When you file for divorce, one of the first steps is notifying your spouse by serving them a copy of the divorce papers. If a spouse can’t be found or is hiding, you can notify them by publishing notice in the newspaper, if the Judge is petitioned to approve this and does so. This is called service by publication. If your spouse doesn’t come forward, you win by default, and this is called divorce by publication.

If you know where your spouse lives, or know how to find them, then you have to actually have them served and do things the long way.

Notice is published in a local newspaper. It tells your spouse there’s a divorce proceeding against them. The idea is that they’ll see it or someone they know will tell them about it. But it’s also possible they won’t actually find out and that’s ok. The fact that you published it – if done in the right way – fulfills your obligation.

You may have seen the legal notice sections in your newspaper. This is where your divorce notice will be published. It has to run for a certain number of days in a paper that is circulated in the county where you filed for divorce. If your spouse doesn’t respond, the case moves divorce.

Divorce by publication is only for cases where a spouse disappears and you have no idea where to find them. The law isn’t going to force you to stay married to this person forever, so divorce by publication is a compromise. You will have to show the Judge that you tried to locate them, by contacting relatives, employers, friends, landlords, the post office, etc. You are required to make a good faith effort, and you’ll have to submit an affidavit (a sworn statement) that you have done so and that your spouse still cannot be located.

If the Judge approves of your efforts and your spouse does not come forward, your divorce will be granted by default. In this type of divorce, the judge has limited power. They may award custody but can’t rule on child support, maintenance or property division.  But at least you’ll be divorced.