You can use a Motion and order to Allow Service by Publication for Child Support Collection when you need to serve the deadbeat with court papers (a summons) but you don’t have a good address for him.  What this means is that you are asking the court to allow you to notify him publicly that he must appear in court to answer your motion, instead of having someone to personally serve him with paperwork.  This of course can only be done if you cannot serve him personally because you don’t know where he is.  Publicly means that you will be notifying him in the newspaper so although you may not have an exact address, you must have very good reason to believe that he lives in a certain area.  You cannot serve someone publicly in California, for example, when the most recent information available about him is in Michigan.  You will have to provide that information in your affidavit, so be sure to do your due diligence or your motion might be thrown out.  By serving someone publicly, the assumption is that either he will see it himself, or that someone else will read the publication and will notify him.  This is seen as a last resort.

Years ago, service by publication in the newspaper and by restricted mail were the only ways to serve someone when you didn’t have an address.  Today, you can also file a motion for  “Alternative Service,” which means that you want another way to serve him publicly that is not the newspaper.  Some examples are social media and email.  You can find out more about alternative service by looking at that form and the how-to-do in our document library.

Here are the steps:

  1. The first thing that you need to do is to get the court’s permission to serve by publication.  By law we all have the right to our day in court.  By serving him publicly you are asking the court to bypass his opportunity to appear and hear your case without him present, if he cannot be found and served personally.  This is taken very seriously so you will first have to do your due diligence and attempt to locate him.  You can do this by: sending letters to his last known address to see if they are returned to you or if they are delivered.  You should send a letter by regular mail and by certified mail, return receipt at the post office.  You can call family members, mutual friends and acquaintances and ask if they have a home or work address for him.
  2. Record all information about every failed attempt to reach him.  You will need to provide this information to the court later.
  3. Note that if you are able to obtain a good address for him, you must serve him personally.
  4. Download the Motion and Order to Allow Service by Publication Forms
  5. Complete the forms using the sample language in our Sample Language/ Forms/ Letters directory
  6. Download the Affidavit form and complete it using the sample language in our Sample Language/ Forms/ Letters Directory
  7. Have the affidavit notarized
  8. Make one copy of each of your forms.  You should have three originals and three copies.
  9. Attach a copy of the affidavit to a copy of your motion and your order.
  10. Bring your originals and your copy to the County Clerk’s office and tell them that you have “a motion for service and are requesting that the judge sign the order.”
  11. *There will probably be a filing fee.  In some areas they may call it an “indexing” fee.  Find out in advance how much the fee is so that you will be prepared when you arrive.  Also, each area is different and ask how that fee must be paid – cash, check, money order, etc.
  12. If you have proven your case, meaning that you have shown that you have made a good-faith effort to find the deadbeat, the judge will sign the order.
  13. Call the newspaper where you intend to publish the summons and ask for their procedure and cost.
  14. *Follow their procedure and pay their cost.
  15. Generally, you must publish the summons once a week for 3 weeks.  Ask the clerk in that particular area to confirm their own policy and procedure.
  16. Generally, on the 21st day the service is considered to have been completed and the deadbeat has been legally served.
  17. The person being served has 30 days in order to respond to the summons.
  18. On the 30th day after the first publication has appeared, you can call the publisher of the newspaper to obtain the “affidavit of service,” which means that they have completed their part of the service and have published the summons in their newspaper as required.
  19. Once you have received this affidavit, you can then proceed with your step step because the deadbeat has been properly served.

If you are concerned about whether you can afford the costs associated with a motion and order to serve by publication, including paying filing fees, consider filing for Indigent Status at the County Clerk’s office.  Search our blog and article area for information to help you understand what that is and how to utilize it.  The costs associated with publishing the summons in the newspaper can often be waived.  Ask the clerk’s office about this as they generally are able to help.  If the clerk’s office is unable to help with this, contact the Simone Spence Support Team: