It's a somewhat absurd artifact of New York law (what are the odds your spouse will read the notice?), but it remains a legally sufficient method of providing notice where the conditions are met.
It comes in handy when you don't have any way to make contact with your spouse, not even e-mail or Facebook (If you do, use alternate service.)
Q: What do I have to do?
You have to make a "diligent search" for your spouse.
The objective is to convince the court clerks that you have tried really hard to discover your spouse's address but, alas, it simply could not be done.
Fortunately, the clerks have a list of what needs to be done to convince them.
One might say the list is a bit old-fashioned, because here is what it includes.
"Diligent Search" for Your Spouse
1. Department of Motor Vehicles
Fill out Form MV-15 at: http://dmv.ny.gov/forms/mv15.pdf and mail as instructed, and await a response.
2. Search the Military
You must contact each branch of the military requesting information about your spouse:
Dept of the Army
8899 E. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46249
Dept of the Navy
Navy Personnel Command
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-3120
United States Air Force
550 C Street West
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4752
United States Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps
HQ - US Marine Corps
2008 Eliot Road
Quantico, VA 22134-5030
United States Coast Guard
Coast Guard Personnel Command
2100 Second St. SW
Washington, DC 20593-0001
3. Board of Elections (Voter Registration)
Write to the Manhattan office of the Board of Elections and ask for a five-borough search for your spouse.
Indicate that you are seeking information as to your spouse's current address.
Provide your spouse's date of birth in the letter.
For details, see the Records Access Info:
4. United States Postal Service (USPS)
Make a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to the USPS to obtain your spouse's change-of-address form, if any.
Info on making a FOIA request to the USPS is here:
5. Department of Vital Records
Have a search performed to confirm that the State of New York does not have a death certificate for your spouse.
6. Telephone Directory
Search the local telephone directory for a record of your spouse. If none found, complete an affidavit to that effect.
7. Search Online
Finally, and most obviously, search online for info regarding your spouse. (Most likely, you conducted a decent search long before you found my website.)
In a sign of how out-dated the clerks' forms are, this is not actually listed on their list of things to do.
Search Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, and record the fact that this did not turn up a current address (or any other information that would enable you to make contact with your spouse.)
When we receive responses on all of these steps, we will make copies of the response, and attach the originals to the motion for alternate service.
Q: How long does this process take?
Plan on a few months.
Q: What comes next?
Once the diligent search is complete, we'll file a motion requesting an order authorizing service by publication.
Assuming the court signs the order, you the client will then need to carry out the order, meaning placing an ad with the designated newspaper for the required period of time (usually once a week, for three weeks).
Once that's done, we'll wait the required time period, and then file the divorce papers.
Q: What is the fee for a divorce using service by publication?
As you can see, this type of divorce involves a fair amount of work. Our fee is $1,800. That does not include the filing fees, the fees for requesting records, or the costs of placing the advertisement in the paper.
Q: I still have questions. What do I do?
Call Maria: (646) 535-5604.