Instructions & Forms for How to Service by Publication

Checklist Steps

Before serving by posting, the law says you must make a diligent search for the other parent. This means you must look really hard, even if the other parent has not been involved in your child’s life.  

Use the steps set out in the Affidavit for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children) form or the Affidavit for Citation by Publication (Other) as a guide when looking for the other parent. You should also use common sense. A diligent search must include the steps someone who really wants to find the other parent would take.

Did you try: 

  • Several attempts at their last known address.
  • Last known employer.
  • Sent them a letter via regular mail and certified mail.
  • Reaching out to their family and friends.
  • Contacting them through email and social media.

Print out the following forms:

Below are forms for a divorce with children (Set A) and forms for if your case is not a divorce (Set B) 

To serve by publication in a divorce with children, fill out the following forms (Set A): 

To serve by publication if you are not asking the court for a divorce, fill out the following forms: 

They can also be found at the bottom of this page. 

Once you have made a diligent search for your spouse or the other fill out:

Set A: Affidavit for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children).

Set B: Affidavit for Citation by Publication (Other) (If you are not asking the court for a divorce).

This form tells the judge that even though you made a diligent search, you could not find the other side.

Fill it out completely and sign it in front of a notary

Fill out:

Set A: Motion for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children).

Set B: Motion for Citation by Publication (Other).

This form tells the judge you want to serve by publication.

Fill it out completely and sign it. 

When serving by publication, the law says you must hire an attorney to look for the other parent.

The attorney ad litem makes an independent search for the other parent. This protects the other parent’s right to be notified about the case. You are responsible for locating, hiring, and paying for the attorney ad litem. 

If the attorney cannot find the other parent, set a date to meet the attorney at court to finish your case.

Note: If you or the attorney ad litem find the other parent, you cannot serve the other parent by publication. See How to Serve the Initial Divorce Papers or How to Serve the Initial Court Papers (Family Law)

To learn more, read Attorneys Ad Litem and Amicus Attorneys in Family Law Cases

Take the completed Affidavit for Citation by Publication and Motion for Citation by Publication forms and at least one copy of each to the clerk’s office where you filed the Petition in your case.

The clerk will keep the original, stamp your copies, and give the copies back to you. 

In some counties, you may need a court order before the clerk will issue a citation by posting.

If needed, you may use the following forms to ask for a court order.

Set A: Order on Motion for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children)

Set B: Order on Motion for Citation by Publication (Other)

You will ask the judge to sign this form to allow you to serve by publication.

Fill it out completely except for the judge’s signature. 

If your county requires a court order before the clerk will issue a citation, ask the clerk when you can give your proposed Order on Motion for Citation by publication (called Order for short) to the judge.

After the judge has signed your Order, turn in the signed Order at the clerk’s office.

Get a file-stamped copy of the Order for your records. 

Tell the clerk you need to serve by publication. Ask the clerk, constable, or sheriff to 

The clerk, constable, or sheriff will fill out a Return of Citation that says when the notice was published.

Important! Make sure the Return of Citation is filed in the clerk’s office.

Note: If you’re filing a divorce, the citation should also be published in the county where any land or house owned by you and your spouse is located. Pay the newspaper. (Research the cost ahead of time.). 

You can serve the other party by publication on the public information site only—and not in the newspaper—if you have filed a statement of inability to pay costs; if serving by newspaper would cost $200 or more per week; or if the jurisdiction where you are serving the other party does not have a newspaper. (See Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 17.032).  

Read Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 114 through 117 for the rules that control service by publication. 


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