One of the first steps in a divorce is filing paperwork with the court. Once you’ve filed the documents, you need to give your future ex-spouse a chance to respond. Your spouse must get a set of those papers, usually through a server, to know that there is a proceeding against the marriage. When the spouse is unavailable, it can feel like there are no options. Fortunately, the legal process has a system. It might take a little longer, but you can still get a divorce if you don’t know where the other party is.
Make Diligent Efforts to Find Your Spouse
You must try to find your spouse in order to get a divorce. Keep track of what you do and the responses that you get in trying to find him or her. You may be able to go through mutual acquaintances or family. If you send letters that come back as undeliverable, save them. You should also use the criminal court records for the jurisdiction where your spouse last lived. Check with the DMV in your area or local homeless shelters. You may even want to check the Social Security Death Index and any organizations that might have his location.
You’ll need to tell the judge about your efforts to find your spouse. If you can’t locate him or her, you’ll need to make a motion to serve by publication or posting. If the judge believes that you’ve done due diligence in trying to locate your spouse, you can receive permission to post a notice of divorce through a newspaper where the spouse was living. The advertisement will have to remain posted for three weeks to give him or her time to contact you about the divorce.
No Response to Publication
If there is no response to the newspaper publication, the judge may proceed without that person in the courtroom. This would be called a “default judgment.” The judge sets the conditions of the divorce. Sometimes, another publication of the divorce judgment would be required. The judge has discretion based on your efforts to find your spouse.
Should You Hire a Professional Investigator?
Sometimes, a professional can help you access information that can help you find your spouse. It can certainly support your efforts to find a spouse.