Missing Marriage Partner: Divorcing Your Spouse That You Can't Seem To Locate

Posted on: 16 April 2015

Sometimes one party in a marriage decides to move on before legally divorcing their spouse. Maybe they moved to another state, or simply took off when divorce discussions began. If you want to divorce a spouse that you can't find, you don't have to stay married forever. You can file a divorce by publication to begin the legal process of divorcing a missing spouse.

Divorce By Publication

In any divorce, your spouse is served with divorce papers that are either left at their last known address, or served by hand if their whereabouts are known. When your spouse is missing, serving them by hand is impossible, so you need another way to serve your spouse notice that you want to file for a divorce. You must make a solid effort to locate your spouse, and if you can't find them, you can petition the court for an Order of Notice by Publication.

This means that you have to run a legal notice in the paper for approximately a month, in the last known area your spouse was living. If there is any indication your spouse is in a specific region, a notice should be run in that local paper too. After publication, your spouse will be given time to respond, a length of time that varies by state.

Steps You Should Take To Find Your Spouse

Before petitioning the courts, there are a number of ways you can try to find a missing spouse, these include:

  • Internet searches, including social media websites.
  • Speaking with their last known place of employment.
  • Calling their family members.

You must document your efforts, including phone calls that warranted no cooperation from your spouse's family members. The more specific you are about your efforts to find your spouse, the more likely it is you will be granted your motion to file by publication.

If Your Spouse Does Not Respond To The Publication

The next step in a divorce by publication is to file your affidavit of notice to the court. The newspaper will provide you with an affidavit that proves you published a divorce request in their paper. This affidavit must go to the court so that you can then move forward with your divorce by default. If your spouse does not respond, it has to be clear to the court that you published in two papers for approximately one month. 

Without a response from your spouse, you are now able to file for divorce as if you served them by hand. The process can become complicated if you have significant assets, and only a qualified lawyer should walk you through the process. When it's time to file for divorce because your spouse deserted you, speak with a divorce attorney that can help you navigate through the process.