Divorcing a MISSING Spouse

It takes two to tango and two to file a divorce.  You cannot file a divorce without your spouse’s signature or without their notice.  You need to know where your spouse is living, or at least be able to talk with them to get a signature.   You definitely need their address to give them notice of the divorce.  So, how do you divorce a spouse who is missing?

This is a common scenario.    You separated years ago, and you don’t know where he lives.  Many couples physically separate without filing a divorce.   Neither spouse keeps in touch with the other.   Now years later you want to get remarried, or maybe just want to close that chapter in your life.  But you don’t know where he lives.

First step is to find out where he lives.   This is true for an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce.

The easiest option for a divorce is an uncontested divorce.  This is where you both agree to the divorce and sign the divorce documents.  If you can get his signature the divorce can be filed in your state, quick and easy.   You must find him, to ask if he will sign the documents.  If he says yes, then you are in business.

The next option is a contested divorce.  This is where you file the divorce papers and have a judge approve the divorce.  You don’t need your husband’s signature.   We still need to know where he lives because we must serve him with the divorce papers.   The courts require us to give him notice you are requesting a divorce.   He can’t stop the divorce.  But, the rules require him to be noticed of your request for one.

A contested divorce should be filed in the state he lives in.  In some situations, it can be filed in your home state.  Our preference is to file it in his state.  This is another reason we need to find him.  We need to know which state to file the divorce in.

How do you find a missing spouse?   The first step is to call old phone numbers you  have for him.   Or send him an email.   Next step is to look on Facebook, contact his relatives, or employer.   Ask where he is and whether they have his contact information.     If this does not work, you can hire companies who can locate people.    The technical term is called “skip tracing”.  There are dozens of companies on the internet who will find where your spouse is living.

Once we find him, we have options.  We contact him and ask if he would agree to an uncontested divorce.  If not, we file the divorce and serve him with the papers.   He will have around three weeks to respond.  If he does not respond the court will grant you a default divorce.   If he does respond, we can negotiate the divorce.   With you both being separated for so long there is not usually anything worth fighting over.   The negotiations typically lead to a settlement.

There are several unique situations than do happen.  You find him and realize he has died or remarried?  If he is dead, then a divorce is not needed.   Death is an automatic divorce.    If he is married, his new wife has a problem.   Their marriage is technically void because he is still married to you.