Can I Get Divorced If I Can’t Find My Spouse?

Hossein Berenji, Apr 18, 2022

Many times people feel stuck in a marriage. Some are not sure if they can move forward with a divorce when they have lost all contact with their spouse. Sometimes, they can’t find the spouse; sometimes, the spouse moves and won’t give their new address. Other times, they may simply be dodging the other spouse in order to avoid being served. 

So does this mean you are out of luck? What happens if you can’t find your spouse? Can you still get a divorce if you have no idea where they live or how to reach them? The answer is YES

In order to file for divorce properly, the other spouse must have notice of the divorce filing. This notice is typically done with a process server or through voluntary acceptance of service. If your spouse is missing or hiding, you cannot do voluntary acceptance. Your only options would be to attempt personal service by a process server at their last known address or legal publication. 

Diligent Search Needed

Legal publication is usually needed to finalize a divorce when the other spouse is “missing.” However, the judge is going to need to know that you have attempted a “diligent search” to try to find them. There are multiple ways to conduct such a search; one way is through the use of a private investigator. 

A private investigator or similar service will help find the current address of your spouse, run a background check, check postal records, and use other available tools to try to determine where the person lives or works. Most attorneys can assist you with this search.

What if They Refuse to Accept Service?

If the spouse is found but refuses to accept the divorce papers, substituted service can sometimes be utilized. Substituted service allows you to serve paperwork by leaving it with an adult who lives in the home and filling out a Proof of Service form.

You will need to document the efforts or attempts you have made at service and report them to the court. Suppose your spouse could not be located or served after this diligent search. In this case, the law allows for service by publication so that you can move your divorce along.

Service by Publication

Once you can establish you have done a diligent search, you can begin the process of service through publication. You (or your divorce attorney) will ask the Clerk’s office to issue a summons or notice that can be published in a local paper (local as to the last known address of the missing spouse). It is required to be published once per week for a total of four (4) consecutive weeks. If someone responds, they can answer the divorce complaint, and the divorce would proceed through the courts with both parties now participating.

     However, suppose the time period of publication has expired, and no spouse has come forward to answer the divorce petition. In this case, the divorce can essentially move forward by default. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to move for a default judgment — given the other party’s failure to answer after proper notice, diligent search, and legal publication. The judge can then make findings to dissolve the marriage and resolve various issues related to the marriage, including division of assets, debt, and in some cases, issues related to the couple’s minor children. 

Contact the family and divorce law firm of Berenji & Associates for help today.

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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