A wife whose husband who has abandoned or deserted her may wish to obtain a divorce. She may be able to proceed by default if an absent husband does not respond to her divorce papers. Each U.S. state sets its own grounds and procedures for divorce. For example, New York State law defines "abandonment" as a ground for divorce when one spouse has left without the other spouse's consent for a continuous period of at least one year. A wife seeking divorce from an absent husband should learn about the relevant laws in her own state and consider meeting with a local lawyer.
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Things you need
- State court forms for divorce
Prepare the petition for divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, using the court forms required by your state. Complete the court forms with your personal information, as well as information about your marital separation date, any children from the marriage, requests for spousal or child support, custody preferences, property, debts, income, temporary orders and all other requested information. Identify one of your state's grounds for divorce. If your state allows divorce based on abandonment or desertion, explain how your husband's absence qualifies you to divorce for that reason. File the original petition with your local family law court.
Arrange service by following your state's procedural requirements to have your husband receive a copy of the divorce petition and provide proof to the court. For example, Oregon law allows for personal service, substitute service, office service and service by mail, as well as other options if approved by a judge. Ask your husband's family or friends, if possible and safe to do so, to find out your husband's address or a way to contact him. Consult with your local family law court or with a lawyer if you cannot complete service of your divorce petition using one of the methods permitted in your state.
Wait for the time period mandated by your state, since your husband will have to respond within a certain number of days after he has received your petition. Confirm that your husband has not filed a response within the required time period and complete the court forms to request a default divorce judgment. Mail a copy of the default request to your husband or provide a copy to him using any other methods permitted by your state's laws.
Find out whether your state requires you to attend a court hearing before the judge grants your default divorce judgment. Follow the court instructions to schedule a hearing and appear in court at the scheduled date and time. Prepare for your hearing by making copies of any required documents and evidence of your case.
Tips and warnings
- Consult with an attorney in your state to learn about your legal options for divorce.
- If your husband does file a response to the divorce petition, follow your state's procedures regarding how to proceed with your case.
- Find out whether you can obtain a default divorce judgment without appearing at a court hearing---some states only require a hearing if the couple has children together or if one of the spouses has requested spousal support or alimony.
- Contact an attorney or domestic violence counsellor if you have concerns about your personal safety.
- Learn whether special laws may apply to your divorce case if your husband is a service member in the U.S. military or in prison.
- Identify any additional procedures required by your state for divorcing parents if you and your husband have minor children together.
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- New York State Unified Court System: Divorce Resources: Glossary of Legal Terms
- California Courts Self-Help Center: Instructions for Petition (Family Law), Form FL-100
- Oregon Judicial Department: Packet 3 General Instructions: Filing for Dissolution (Divorce), Cases With No Children
- California Courts Self-Help Center: Guide for an Uncontested Case for Divorce, Legal Separation or Annulment
- Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County: How to File an Application and Affidavit for Default and How to Get a Default Hearing in Cases Without Minor Children