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How Do I Divorce a Missing Spouse?

missing spouse

Let’s say your unhappy marriage culminated with your spouse skipping out on you. You have no idea where your missing spouse might be, but you know you are done playing house and you want a divorce. Since divorces generally require the consent of both parties to the action, does that mean I’ll be stuck in limbo forever? 

Divorce by Publication 

Have no fear: You do have an option! The truth is, lawmakers understand that this circumstance may occur on occasion, and there is a legal remedy for it. It is called divorce by publication, and it is an option for individuals who can persuade a judge that they have searched, but have been unable to locate a missing spouse. 

In a typical divorce, the serving party has papers delivered to a spouse via the sheriff’s office or other means notifying the defendant that divorce proceedings are afoot. When the petitioner cannot locate the defendant after what’s known as a diligent search, the court allows for proceedings to go forward without the missing spouse. 

Missing Spouse Search Requirements 

A diligent search has specific requirements that must be met in order for your divorce to proceed. Although time consuming and perhaps a bit daunting, following these steps is the only way you can divorce your missing spouse. The steps include: 

  1. Conducting a phone search and using directory assistance in the area that you are guessing your missing spouse lives and/or last resided;
  2. Contacting friends and family of the missing spouse to see if they can give you any clues as to spouse’s whereabouts;
  3. Checking with the post office to see if a forwarding address has been listed;
  4. Looking into tax collector and property assessor records to determine whether or not spouse owns any property;
  5. Looking into car registration records with the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  6. Following up with previous employers and landlords;
  7. Looking up voter registration records;
  8. Hiring a private investigator to try to find the missing spouse.

When you have completed each of these tasks, you must submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court, indicating that you have, indeed, exhausted all avenues in your attempt to locate the missing spouse. 

Public Notice 

At this point, with a little more paperwork, you simply need to publish a summons each week for four consecutive weeks. Your spouse has one month to respond at the end of the four weeks. If there is no response, a petition is filed to grant the divorce by default.  Barring no further response from the missing spouse, the divorce will be finalized in six months of the initial newspaper posting. 

Legal Advocacy 

It may seem to be an overwhelming prospect to divorce a missing spouse, but with the assistance of the adept and knowledgeable team at Beck Family Law, the whole thing can be completed within six months. To discuss your situation if you live in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, or Lake County, contact our Santa Rosa office today.

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