First have the sheriff or constable try to serve the defendant at the last address you know the defendant lived or worked.  If the sheriff or constable’s Return of Service says that the defendant or his/her current home address was not found after a diligent search, then you can ask the court for an “order of notice”, which is the court’s approval to notify the defendant of the lawsuit by some other manner, such as by publication in a newspaper.  There is usually a fee charged to publish a legal notice in a newspaper.  

To ask the court for an order for notice by publication, follow these steps:

  1. Ask the Clerk’s Office at the court where your case is filed what form you should use and whether they have a sample form you can look at.  This form is usually called a “Motion for Alternative Service” or a “Motion for Service by Publication”.  
  2. After you prepare the motion, attach your Affidavit (a written statement that you sign under the pains and penalties of perjury) to the motion.  In your Affidavit, write that you do not know where the defendant lives, provide the last known address that you have for the defendant, and describe what you did to try to find and serve the defendant.  
  3. Mail the motion and your Affidavit to the Clerk’s Office of the court where your case is filed, or deliver the papers in person to the Clerk’s Office of that court.  Ask the Clerk’s Office whether you will need to appear before a judge to present your motion, or if you will be notified of the judge’s decision by mail.  
  4. If the judge approves your motion, you will receive an order from the court.  The order will tell you which newspaper to publish the notice in and when to publish it.  The order will also give you the wording of the notice.  Take the notice to the legal notice department of the newspaper.  After paying the fee and having the notice published in the newspaper, get a copy of the entire page from the newspaper and file it with the court to prove the notice was published.  The defendant will then have a period of time to respond to the court.