Can You Divorce Your Spouse If You Do Not Know Where They Are?

Traditionally, if you decide to file for divorce, you would present your spouse with papers, have them sign the papers, and then turn those papers into the court. But what if you do not know where your spouse is and are therefore unable to serve them with divorce papers? Maybe they left a few years ago, and that's why you're now considering divorce — or maybe they left because your relationship was going south and they wanted to avoid being served with divorce papers. In either case, a spouse who is in hiding won't keep you from divorcing, but it will make the process more challenging. Here is how you should proceed.

Meet with an Attorney

Before things get too far along, meet with a divorce lawyer so that you can get an idea of exactly where you stand in a legal sense. Every situation is different, especially when missing people are involved. Chances are, your attorney will guide you through the process of making reasonable attempts to locate your spouse. This must be documented carefully, since the court will require that you made an effort to locate your spouse before granting you a divorce in their absence. 

Some of the ways in which you and your attorney may attempt to locate your spouse include:

  • Contacting him or her via email and social media.
  • Browsing your spouse's social media accounts for hints regarding their whereabouts.
  • Reaching out to family and friends.
  • Contacting potential employers.

You may have already tried some of these approaches, but if you do not have any documentation to show it, you may need to try again so that the court has evidence of your attempts to locate your spouse.

Publish an Order of Notice by Publication

If your search for your spouse turns up dry, then you can publish what is known as an Order of Notice by Publication in the newspaper. Typically, you'll publish this in the town in which your spouse was last known to live. Your spouse will either respond to the ad, in which case you will proceed with your divorce as per normal, or they will overlook it.

If you do not get a response to the ad within a reasonable amount of time — typically a month — your attorney can finalize your divorce and file it with the court without the input of your spouse. Since your spouse won't be around to argue against the terms of the divorce, the process should be fast and easy from here on out.

Some people assume that if they disappear, you can't and won't divorce them. If your spouse has made this false assumption, meet with a lawyer to start the divorce process in their absence. For more information, contact law firms like Dionisio law.