Friday, July 19, 2013

Can you get divorced if you don't know where your spouse is?

If you're in a position where you would like a divorce but you have no idea where your spouse is, nor any way to figure out where he or she may be, you can still get your dissolution.  It takes a bit longer, and it's a little more expensive than a relatively cheap uncontested divorce where both parties are cooperating, but it is still possible.

First, you'll need to make a solid, good-faith effort to locate the missing spouse, including using a skiptrace or other means of attempting to locate.  Some clients even reach out via social networks.  Assuming you cannot find your spouse, you will sign a Notice of Publication, and later testify under oath, at the conclusion of your case, that your spouse cannot be located despite your best efforts to do so.

Since proper service is required for any case, including divorces, and personal service cannot be obtained on a missing spouse, the law allows for service by publication.  In this situation, a notice is put in the legal newspaper in the county the case is filed in (in St. Louis County, for example, the notice is put in The Countian).  The client is responsible for paying to have the ad ran for a 4-week period.

Assuming the missing spouse does not see the newspaper publication and consequently do not file an Answer or hire an attorney, he or she will be in default 45-days after the date of first publication.  Once in default, you can move the court for an interlocutory order of default and set the case for a default hearing.  At that default hearing the client testifies to the required elements of a dissolution action and, assuming all goes smoothly, the divorce is ordered at the conclusion of the hearing.

Using service by publication is not an end-around to getting a divorce without your spouse being properly served.  If you can locate your spouse, you will need to have him or her served by a process server or the sheriff.  If, however, you cannot locate your spouse and have no reasonable way in which to find them, you can proceed with service by publication.  Compared to a straight uncontested divorce where both parties are cooperating, a divorce that requires service by publication will be more expensive and take a bit longer.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Gerald W. Linnenbringer, Missouri Uncontested Divorce Attorney