Divorce petitionThis is the next post in my series on filing for a Las Vegas divorce when one’s spouse is outside the country. My last article provided an overview of topics which this series will address. It also stressed the need to speak with an attorney if you find yourself in such a situation. Speaking with counsel will assist you in understanding all of the options which you may have available. In this article I will discuss a topic which often causes confusion – serving your spouse with papers when they are abroad. If you need assistance then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

The first step in any divorce is to file a Complaint and serve it on the other side. When the Plaintiff’s spouse is outside of the country, however, personal service can become a problem for obvious reasons. There are three ways in which the defendant can be served. These involve serving the defendant personally, serving them via the US consulate, or serving them via publication. I will discuss each of these in turn.

Serving a defendant personally is straightforward. If they are overseas, but their location is known, then your lawyer will be able to provide a foreign process server with a copy of the Complaint and Summons so that they may be served. Once the defendant receives the papers, then they will have twenty days in which to file their response. If they fail to file a response then they will be considered in default and your counsel may ask that the Court conclude the case at the time. If the defendant files an Answer to the Complaint, and a settlement cannot be reached, then the case will proceed to litigation.

Serving a defendant through the consulate can be quite time-consuming. This process is typically only used when the whereabouts of one’s spouse are known, but the individual is refusing to accept service of process. Once the process of going through the consulate is complete, the individual’s twenty day time frame to respond will begin.

The third way to serve someone abroad is through a process known as publication. This is reserved for times where a spouse cannot be located and their current whereabouts are unknown. In order to serve a spouse in this way, a process server will have to file an affidavit showing the due diligence they used in trying to find the defendant. You will then file a Motion with the Court asking for permission to serve the defendant by publication. Once the Motion is granted, your counsel will run a series of notices in the local legal news which state the existence of the legal action. A copy of the Complaint and Summons must also be mailed to the Defendant’s last known whereabouts. Once the series of legal notices is complete, the defendant is considered served and, again, their twenty days to respond to the Complaint will begin.

The means by which one will try to serve a spouse who is out of the country will depend on the specific facts of the case. It is strongly suggested that you retain an attorney who is experienced in handling such matters. I am a Las Vegas divorce lawyer and I strive to ensure that my clients’ rights are protected. Contact my office today to schedule an initial consultation.