How to Obtain a Divorce When You Can’t Find Your Spouse

If your spouse is nowhere to be found, you may have a hard time serving him or her with divorce papers. Does this mean you have to remain in the marriage indefinitely? Not at all. The good news is, after you have tried everything to find your spouse, many courts will grant you a divorce without your spouse being present at all. The following gives a basic outline of how it all works.

Serving Papers

When you file for divorce, you generally have 60 days to serve divorce papers to your spouse. These papers outline your intent to divorce, as well as the reasons why. They will also give information such as how your spouse can obtain a lawyer and when the court date is. You don’t personally have to hand these papers to your spouse, but you do need to ensure they are delivered. You will do this by getting proof of service back from the sheriff or other individual who delivered the papers.

Searching for Your Spouse

If the papers cannot be delivered because your spouse no longer lives at that location, it is your responsibility to search for him or her. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Contacting your spouse’s employer.
  • Contacting your in-laws or any of your spouse’s close friends.
  • Doing an internet search.
  • Checking criminal court records.
  • Contacting the local hospitals.
  • Contacting the local jails or prisons.
  • Checking with homeless shelters.
  • Checking with the DMV.

After you have done everything you can to find your spouse, detail it all out in a document. If someone seemed to know where your spouse was, but declined to give any information, be sure to state that in the document.

File an Order of Notice by Publication

If you have done everything possible to find your spouse, but to no avail, you still have one last option. An Order of Notice by Publication is something you can ask the court to grant. This is a “legal advertisement” you’ll run in a local newspaper, informing your spouse that you’re looking for him or her because you intend to divorce.

Proceeding With Divorce

If a judge is satisfied that you have done everything, including posting an Order of Notice by Publication, and your spouse still cannot be found, the judge may grant you a divorce anyway. Without your spouse present, the court can dissolve the marriage, divide property, create a child custody arrangement and order child support or alimony.

Contacting a Lawyer Today

If you’re worried about not being able to divorce because your spouse is in hiding, there are some steps you can make to ensure it still happens. Contact a family lawyer, like a family attorney in  Tampa, FL, today to learn what you can do.


Thank you to the experts at The McKinney Law Group for their insight into family law and contacting a lawyer.