Divorcing a spouse that is missing? Is it possible to divorce your spouse when you have no idea where he or she is? The short answer is yes, but you will have to go through some extra work, wait about six months, and you may not get a final court order on the division of resources, child custody issues, and child support. In this situation, hiring an experienced divorce attorney is a must.
Divorcing by Publication
When a spouse disappears with no forwarding address, divorce may be obtained by publication. The Petitioner (the person seeking a divorce) must demonstrate that a diligent search has been conducted and the missing spouse was unable to be located. Therefore, that spouse cannot be served, nor can the divorce papers be delivered by certified mail.
Divorcing a Missing Spouse? What is a Diligent Search?
The courts expect that a sincere effort to locate the missing partner has occurred. Thus, a number of steps must be taken:
- A thorough search of phone books and directory assistance in the area where the Petitioner lives and where the missing spouse was known to have lived last;
- Talking to friends and relatives who might have knowledge of the missing spouse’s whereabouts;
- Contacting the post office in the area where the missing spouse lived to ask for a forwarding address;
- Investigating tax and property records to see if the absent spouse owns any property;
- Communicating with previous landlords and employers about the location of the missing spouse;
- Checking voter registration records;
- Hiring a private investigator to try to find the missing spouse.
If, after completing these steps, your spouse still cannot be found, you may submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This documents any and all steps you have taken to locate your spouse.
Filing for Divorce
At this stage, you must complete an Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons and several other legal documents in order for the court to issue an Order of Publication. The Order allows for the publication of the summons in the newspaper, and it must be published weekly for a total of four consecutive weeks. There must be a minimum of five days between each publication.
Your Spouse’s Rights
Following the four weeks of Publication of Summons plus 28 days, your spouse has another 30 days in which to file a response. Barring any response, you may file a Request to Enter Default Dissolution of Marriage. The divorce will become final six months from the date of the first publication of summons. Continue reading →