Once a lawsuit in foreclosure is filed, a defendant has 20 days to file an answer. However, the service must be proper in order to be valid. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require a process server, and not the Plaintiff, to serve the Defendant. Service must be performed by personally finding the defendant and handing them the foreclosure complaint. This can be done at either the residence, place of employment or any other place where the Defendant is found. If at the residence, it does not need to be served on the named Defendant but can be served on anyone over the age of 16 that opens the door.
If the Defendant is married, the spouse must also be served, and can also accept service on behalf of the other spouse.
After three unsuccessful attempts at service, the Plaintiff can serve by publication. This typically means that the lawsuit notice is published in the Daily Business Review for three consecutive weeks, and then the defendant is considered served. Often, however, the Defendant does not read this newspaper and therefore does not know that the 20 days has started.
If the above rules were not followed however, for example, someone under 16 accepted, or the notice was published without the proper three days attempt, then the service of process can be dissolved or “quashed” forcing the Plaintiff to reserve the defendant properly.
If you suspect that you have been served by publication, the best way thing to do is speak to an attorney in order to run your docket and advise if an Affidavit of Service and three attempts appears in the docket. The clerk of court online site, for instance the Miami Dade Clerk or Broward Clerk, both have online sites where the docket can be reviewed and service or publication verified.
Otherwise, speak to an attorney to assist and guide you. The first consult is always free of charge.