I can't find my spouse. Can I still get divorced?
You want to get divorced, but you don’t know where your spouse is and can’t find him or her. This is a fairly common situation. Sometimes people have been separated for a long time and lost touch, other times the spouse doesn’t want to be found. Whatever the situation, you will still be able to get divorced.
In a typical divorce process, one party files a petition and summons and has it personally served on the other side. Sometimes the petitioner will serve the other side via mail, with a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt.
When you don’t know where the other party is, it is a little more complicated and will take more work. You must try your best to locate your spouse. This is called “due diligence.” The court wants to know that you have made your best efforts to locate your spouse because, in the divorce process, your spouse’s rights and obligations will be changed. The court doesn’t want to make those changes without your spouse’s input if at all possible.
To complete your due diligence, you will need to make several attempts to serve your spouse, in a variety of ways. This can include but is not limited to, attempting personal service at their last known address or last known work address, attempting mail service with a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt to their last known addresses, contacting any family members to find updated information, doing an online search, and checking social media. If there is a restraining order in effect in your matter, please contact an attorney for or self-help center for assistance.
If you’ve tried every way you can think of to reach your spouse and are still not able, you will need to show the court records of your efforts and ask that your spouse be served by publication or posting.
Service by publication is done by putting an ad in a newspaper with the summons, near to where you think is most likely to reach your spouse (often last known address), and running it for a certain length of time (usually a few weeks).
Service by posting is done by posting the summons in the courthouse where your divorce is filed. It remains up for a certain period of time (usually a few weeks) on a notice board at the courthouse.
Generally, service by posting is only allowed in cases where the petitioner is unable to afford the cost of the newspaper ad.
Once the necessary period of time has passed, the court will deem your spouse served and you will be able to move forward with your divorce process.
Have questions about how to serve your spouse with divorce papers or about due diligence? Contact Romanovska Law.