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Divorce not legally final - Do It Yourself

San Francisco, CA |

I have recently learned that my "do it yourself" divorce done a few years ago was never finalized. I have no idea where my spouse is and do know that I have to place ads in newspapers of the last known address. Can I do this on my own and then bring either to an attorney or straight to the courts or do I need an attorney from stage one?


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Attorney answers 4


Well, I think your experience speaks for itself. You attempted to "do it yourself" and here ya are -- still married. Hire counsel to first locate your wife and if unsuccesful, conduct a "due dillegence" search before publishing -- at least that is the process in WA. Get an attorney now and save yourself the fuistration of making another error and having to start over again. Good luck.


You need to apply to the court for permission to serve papers by publication. If your dissolution judgment is not entered within 5 years of filing, the court loses jurisdiction and is required to dismiss the case. You can still get divorced, but you have to start over.
Dissolution judgments cover a wide range of issues, and there are many technicalities required to make a valid judgment. If you value getting the dissolution finalized, an experienced family law attorney would be a wise investment at this point.


I would recommend that you hire an attorney. Your experience is not uncommon in the area of family law. Depending on whether your case is still even active with the court, you may need to start the proceedings from the beginning and file a Motion to Serve by Publication. Bottom line, you should have your case reviewed by an attorney as soon as possible.


The San Francisco Family Law Facilitator and/or the San Francisco Self Help Center (ACCESS) can also assit you with your petition for publication. If you qualify for a Fee Waiver, notice by posting may also be available (saving you the cost of publishing in a newspaper).