It's possible to divorce even when you have no idea where your spouse is. The courts will grant the divorce if you can show you've tried to find your spouse with a complete and meticulous search. This type of divorce is known as service by publication, because you publish your intent to divorce in the local newspaper.
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Hire a divorce attorney familiar with this type of divorce. Requirements may be slightly different in each state, so make sure you follow your local rules exactly. Give yourself plenty of time to carry out all the requirements.
Search for your spouse. Try looking in telephone directories of the cities where you think she might be living, getting in touch with your spouse's family members, checking department of motor vehicles records and contacting prisons and police departments in areas you think she might be. You can hire a private detective to assist you, but this is usually not required legally.
Contact the U.S. military if you think there's a possibility your spouse might be enlisted. If he was previously in the military, he may have applied for veterans benefits. Check veterans hospitals.
Keep an extremely detailed record of your attempts to find your spouse. This will give weight to your request to the judge. You want to show you have done everything possible to locate your missing spouse. Write family members instead of calling, and get a return receipt to prove they received your letter. When talking with people in the military, police departments and other official offices, get names and date your notes. Request they send information to you in writing.
Carry out the service by publication when the judge orders it. He will decide where and how often to publish the notice. Most courts require the notice to be published weekly for four to six continuous weeks. State in the notice that your are suing your spouse for dissolution of marriage.
File a sworn statement with the Clerk of the Court stating you have tried to find your spouse but have been unable to do so. List the methods you have used and include your records as backup.
File an affidavit of publication with the court. This is an affidavit from the newspaper verifying you have published the notices for the set amount of time. The judge will then proceed with the divorce.
Tips and warnings
- Don't expect a service of publication to go through if you actually find your missing spouse. The divorce will have to take place in the usual manner.