Since a divorce is a legal dissolution of marriage, the court system requires that both parties involved are aware of the proceedings. This is not a problem for most divorcing couples, but there are situations where spouses are no longer living together or communicating, so the person who files for divorce may not know the address or phone number of his or her spouse. If your spouse has disappeared that does not mean that you have to remain legally married because you can't have papers served. Take the following steps to get a divorce when your spouse can't be found:
File a Motion for Alternative Service with the Court
When you can't locate your spouse to have divorce papers served, you may file a motion for alternative service. In most cases, the alternative to actually serving divorce papers in person is to put a legal notice in your city's newspaper naming yourself and your spouse and your intent to divorce. In order to place a legal notice that will be recognized, you must have permission from the court first.
Proof of a Diligent Search
The court system prefers that people are formally served divorce papers in order to protect the interests of all parties involved, so you will have the burden of proving that you have no way to contact your spouse. In this day and age, the Internet makes it easy to perform a diligent search. You can start by searching the Social Security Administration database to see if there has been a death certificate issued in your spouse's name. You may also want to search on various social media platforms to see if your spouse can be found. Print out your search results to serve as proof for the court. To solidify your proof of a diligent search, consider calling friends and family members, and let the court know if no one has an address or phone number for your spouse.
After proving your diligent search, the court will most likely grant your motion for alternate service. The court will give you an order that you can bring to the newspaper to show that a judge is allowing you to serve your spouse by publishing a legal notice in the newspaper. Your order from the court will outline all of the details, including how many times the notice is required to be published.
Getting a Divorce by Default
The newspaper will provide you with a statement confirming that you have had your legal notice of intent to divorce published as required by the court. Go to court and file the statement with the court clerk. In most states, you will then have to wait for a certain amount of time in order to allow your spouse to respond. If your spouse does not respond within the allotted time, you will be granted a divorce by default.
For further assistance, contact a local divorce lawyer, such as one from Ward & Ketchersid PA.