Service by Publication in South Carolina Family Court

Service by Publication in SC Family Court

By M. J. Goodwin


Many times, a client will not know where the opposing party in a law suit can be located. One can still sue an absent defendant and get a court order that provides for any relief that the Family Court has jurisdiction to order. Service by publication is accomplished by following certain rules and procedures.


  1. A Summons and Complaint, seeking relief from the Court, must be filed with the Family Court.
  2. The Plaintiff’s attorney must make diligent efforts to find the Defendant and serve the pleadings on the Defendant personally. This can be done by hiring a private process server or by using the local Sheriff’s Office. If the process server cannot find the Defendant, other diligent efforts, such as checking online directories and asking relatives that can be located, should be employed. Typically, I have the process server and the client sign affidavits that the whereabouts of the Defendant are not known after a diligent search. I also have my office staff search the internet and any other resources that may be relevant (such as the Department of Corrections).
  3. Once I have determined that the Defendant cannot be located, an Affidavit of Due Diligence outlining my efforts to find the Defendant and a Motion and Order to Serve the Defendant by Publication are filed with the Family Court. The Family Court then issues an Order for Service by Publication.   Publication can be accomplished in a print newspaper or an online newspaper. The Publication of the information lets the whole world know that the legal action has been filed and gives the Defendant an opportunity to respond. South Carolina law provides for service by publication in all Family Court matters, even those addressing adoption and termination of parental rights, which are filed under seal. The relevant code section is 15-9-710 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
  4. Publication must run for three weeks. Then an Affidavit of Service by Publication is filed with the Court.
  5. The case then proceeds as if the Defendant were served by personal service.


A client should not be deterred from filing an action because he or she does not know the whereabouts of the opposing party.


If you need to file a Family Court action, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can reach me by email at I have 23 years of experience in a wide variety of Family Court matters. Email inquiries are typically answered within twelve hours.






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