Navigating Service Difficulties in California Family Law: When the Party Can’t Be Located

Serving legal documents is a crucial step in most legal proceedings. If you’re facing challenges locating the person to be served, here’s what you need to know under California family law:

1. Due Diligence

Before exploring alternatives, you must demonstrate that reasonable efforts were made to locate the individual.
Example: You might have checked last known addresses, contacted mutual acquaintances, or even hired a private investigator to attempt service.

2. Service by Publication

If the person cannot be found after diligent efforts, the court might permit service by publication. This involves publishing the notice in a court-approved newspaper.
Example: If you’re filing for divorce and can’t locate your spouse, after demonstrating due diligence, you might be allowed to publish the divorce notice in a local newspaper.

3. Service by Posting

In some cases, the court might allow the notice to be posted at the courthouse.
Example: For matters like child support adjustments, if the other parent can’t be located, a notice might be posted at a designated public place within the courthouse.

4. Service by Mail

With court permission, and after demonstrating diligent attempts at personal service, you might be allowed to serve by mail to the last known address.
Example: If you’re seeking a restraining order and the individual moved without leaving a forwarding address, you might mail the documents to their last known residence after getting court approval.

5. Substituted Service

If personal service isn’t possible after several attempts, the court might allow you to serve another adult at the person’s residence or workplace or by mailing the documents along with a notice of acknowledgment.
Example: If trying to serve spousal support papers and the ex-spouse isn’t available at home after multiple attempts, you might be permitted to leave the papers with an adult at the residence.

6. Affidavit or Declaration

After attempting alternative service methods, you’ll often need to provide the court with a sworn statement detailing the efforts made to locate and serve the party.

Final Thoughts

Proper service is a foundational step to ensure due process rights. While alternatives exist for challenging situations, each carries specific requirements and obligations.
If you’re grappling with service challenges in a family law context and need representation, The Mines Law Firm is prepared to assist.
Jasmine Mines, Esq.
The Mines Law Firm