When you file for a divorce, your spouse is given the opportunity to respond to the court. You are required to serve your spouse with the divorce action. Every state has a process for serving the spouse, but typically, you can give these papers to him or her by hand, have the sheriff serve the spouse or even ask a process server to take the papers.
What happens when you don’t know where your spouse is? You’re not doomed to stay married forever, but you will have to demonstrate to the court that you’ve made diligent efforts to find your spouse.
Speak to a Divorce Attorney
If you’re not sure where your spouse is, consult with a family lawyer early in the process. You should make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities to avoid stepping outside the jurisdiction of the court. Divorce is a difficult process when the spouse isn’t missing. You need as much information as possible to proceed.
File For Divorce
Your attorney will advise you on your state rules, but typically, you will want to file for a no-fault divorce. You will probably need to show that you tried to serve the papers to your spouse but were unable to locate him or her. Contrary to the movies, your spouse can’t slow down the process by simply avoiding the process server.
The next step is to run a notice of intent in the newspaper where your spouse was last-known to live. Typically, you’ll have to run this notice for about three weeks to give your spouse time to respond. If your spouse still doesn’t respond, you can take your divorce proceedings to the court and ask for a judgment by default. The court may make you wait additional time to give your spouse plenty of time to respond.
The judge will need to be convinced that you attempted to give your spouse notice of the divorce proceeding. You can proceed with the dissolution of your marriage, including child support, property division, custody, and visitation.
Your attorney can help you make sure that you have the documentation required by your state. Some states require certain affidavits, stating that your spouse is not in the military or otherwise out of the country.
Beat Your Legal Hurdles
While it may be more difficult to get a divorce when you don’t know where your spouse is because you do face more legal hurdles, you can overcome these difficulties. Work with an experienced family lawyer who will be your advocate and help you shore up your case.