Getting divorced when your spouse is nowhere to be found.
Sometimes couples drift apart. Sometimes they drift so far apart they don’t even know where to serve each other with divorce paperwork. While not the best situation to be in, you aren’t stuck being married to someone you haven’t seen in years.
How can you serve them with the divorce paperwork when you have no idea where they live? The court has a process for that. You need to ask the court to approve Service by Alternate Means. You will need to tell the court:
- The last address you have for your spouse
- How and when you had contact with your spouse (i.e., phone, Facebook, e-mail, etc.)
- The last place your spouse worked
- The names and addresses of your spouse’s parents, siblings, children, and other relatives
- The names and addresses of any other people who might know your spouse
- A description of your efforts to get that information
You can’t just tell the court “I don’t know where he/she is”, you need to prove that you sincerely tried to find them. Because the world is so connected these days, it is likely you will be able to find someone who can get you in touch with your spouse. Courts have even allowed service via Facebook when it appears to be the only way to contact a person.
You may never want to see them again, but just because you are able to serve them with papers doesn’t mean they are going to show up and cause problems. Do not risk your own credibility with the court by not making a genuine attempt to follow any lead to track down your spouse. That will just delay your case and irritate the judge.
If the judge reviews your request and agrees to allow you to serve by alternate means, then you will be given an Order telling you to either mail the divorce documents to your spouse at a specific address or to publish the Summons in a legal newspaper for three weeks in the area where you told the court you think your spouse lives.
If you served your spouse by alternate means, you have to wait 71 days from the date the letter was mailed or the first time the Summons was published in the newspaper before you can file a request that the divorce be granted due to default. If you do not have any minor children from the marriage, then it will be approved without having to go to court. If you do have minor children from the marriage, you will need to appear in court and speak with the judge before the divorce will be granted.
The courts cannot order spousal maintenance, attorney’s fees or costs in a default divorce.