3 Steps For Divorcing An Absent Spouse

18 June 2015
 Categories: Law, Articles


In a typical divorce proceeding, your biggest problems might be fighting with your spouse over who gets the kids or who keeps the house. However, if you don't know where your spouse is, you have a whole different set of problems when it comes to securing a divorce. How can you divorce someone who can't be found? There is a way to get it done. Here are the steps that you'll need to take to get a divorce from your absent spouse.

Due Diligence

Chances are that you've already made some attempt to find your missing spouse, but in order for you to proceed with a divorce from an absent partner, you'll need to show that you've done due diligence – in other words, that you've made a reasonable effort – in searching for your spouse. That means that you may need to try again, and document your attempts and any progress you've made.

To satisfy the divorce court's requirement of due diligence, you can try reaching out to your spouse's friends or family members, contacting them at the last email address or phone number that you have for them, or checking with the post office or DMV to find out if they have a new listed address. Whatever you do, make sure to keep a record of your efforts. In today's courtrooms, a judge may also expect to see that you've tried searching for your spouse on the internet or through social media networks.

You'll present the results of your search to the court by means of a sworn statement detailing your efforts to find your spouse. You'll also be requesting permission to get a divorce by publication. If the judge accepts your research, then you'll be able to move on with the next phase of the divorce proceeding.


When you can't find your spouse, you can't deliver them a summons to appear in court for divorce proceedings. In order to give your partner every chance to be notified of your intent to divorce and to appear in court if they choose, you will need to publish the legal notification instead. Usually this involves choosing a newspaper and running the ad for a specified amount of time.

Each state has different rules for publishing divorce notifications. You may be required to publish in a newspaper local to you, or you may have to choose one in the area of the country that your spouse was last known to reside in, if that is different from the area where you live. State laws also vary regarding how often and how long you have to run the ad before it's considered adequate notification. The judge will let you know what the requirements are. Newspaper staff are familiar with this procedure and will help to ensure that your published notification complies with the law.

In at least one New York divorce case, a woman was allowed by a judge to publish her divorce notification on a social media network instead of in a newspaper. In that case, the absent spouse was known to use social media, and as the woman filing the divorce petition had no other viable address or contact information for her spouse, social media was deemed an effective primary method of notification. Remember that finding your spouse can speed the divorce process, so if you can think of method of notification that may be more likely to get your spouse's attention than a newspaper ad, it may be worth asking the judge to consider it, even if it's unorthodox.

Divorce by Default

You will need to present the court with proof that you've published your divorce notification, and proof that you ran the ad as many times as the court requires. Even after this, you'll still have to wait – most states allow your spouse a certain amount of time after the last publication to respond to the divorce summons. For example, the waiting period in Texas is a minimum of 61 days.

Once the waiting period expires without contact from your spouse, the judge will be able to grant you a divorce by default. If you have children from the marriage that reside with you, you should request to be named their primary guardian. You can also submit a proposed divorce decree outlining what marital properties you think you should retain, and what would belong to your spouse, should your spouse decide to claim them.

Pursuing a divorce against a missing spouse can be more time consuming than a typical divorce proceeding, but it's worth pursuing if you've been abandoned by your partner. Getting a divorce frees you up to move on with your own life. Because the laws have to be carefully followed in an absentee divorce case, you should be sure to consult a divorce attorney who is experienced with default divorce laws in your area. Check out websites like http://www.kamesquire-com.webs.com for more information.