Skip to main content

October 05, 2019

Ending A Marriage When Your Spouse’s Whereabouts Are Unknown

Back To Blog

Posted in General

Personal Injury Lawyer

Divorces can be quick and painless or extremely difficult depending on the cooperation between spouses and the complexity of shared assets and minor children involved. Under normal circumstances, divorces may occur when either one spouse files and serves the other with the required paperwork, or both spouses file jointly.

In the unusual cases where you decide to file for a divorce and you don’t actually know where you spouse is, things can be a bit more complex and require a few extra steps to ensure your case is carried through legally.

Alternative Service

After you have made reasonable efforts to find your spouse, the court may require you to file a Motion for Alternative Service (title varies between states). The most common form of this is a Service by Publication which requires you to publish a notice of your intent to file a divorce in a newspaper closest to the last known whereabouts of your spouse. You would run this for the time period your state requires, such as three weeks, and after your partner has been given time to respond and does not (some states require 20 days), you can proceed with finalizing the divorce with your attorney by default.

Laws vary between states, so check with your family attorney to be sure you understand what is expected of you in these situations so you can be sure the court will accept your efforts and complete the divorce process. Often, the court or judge will ask for an affidavit of marshal service that confirms the newspaper publication, as well as a copy of the notice.

If your spouse is not in the military, you may also be required to file an Affidavit of Non-Military Service stating this fact. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects soldiers from court judgments while on active duty, so if your spouse is serving in the military, you cannot file divorce while they are away.

Complex Affairs

In cases where you and your missing spouse have minor children or jointly owned property, the court may not be able to make settlement decisions including things like child support and how to split your marital property. 

Default Procedure

If you do not have complicated matters to settle with your spouse, and you have put the required amount of effort into locating them, the court might allow you to file an application and Affidavit for Default. Once you fill these out, mail a copy to your spouse’s last known address, and wait 10 days, then you can require a default hearing from the court. Additional paperwork will be required for your hearing, and then if no other complications arise, you could likely leave the hearing divorced.

Dedicated To Getting You Results

Contact Us For A Free Consultation