April 14, 2024


Law For A Better Future

How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years


How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years Dissolving a marriage with someone you haven’t seen in years can be a challenging process that involves unique legal procedures. If you’re struggling to locate your spouse, the court may need to step in. Divorce proceedings can be categorized into two types: no-fault and at-fault divorces, each with its own legal distinctions, required documentation, filing costs, and logistical requirements that can vary by state.

But what if you want to divorce someone you can’t find? In such cases, you become a candidate for a “divorce by publication,” a process governed by varying state rules. These rules generally require that both spouses have lived apart for a specific period and that your best efforts to contact your spouse have failed.

Table of Contents

How To Divorce Someone You Haven'T Seen In Years
How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years
  1. How to Locate Your Spouse
  2. The Process for Divorcing Someone You Haven’t Seen in Years
  3. What Happens if a Motion Is Granted or Denied
  4. Default Procedure for Divorce
  5. Conclusion

How to Locate Your Spouse 

How To Divorce Someone You Haven'T Seen In Years
How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years

Locating your spouse can be attempted before or after you file your divorce lawsuit, or you can pursue both options. However, if considerable time has passed, the court may require you to repeat your efforts to ensure the information is current.

After filing your lawsuit, it’s crucial to send divorce papers (Complaint, Summons, and Notice of Initial Hearing) to your spouse’s last known address via certified and regular mail. The law doesn’t specify precise actions you must take; it depends on the circumstances. You’ll be evaluated based on whether you’ve done enough. Examples of efforts the court expects you to make include:

  • Providing details of when and where you last saw your spouse.
  • Sending court documents via certified mail with a return receipt to your spouse’s last known address, and saving returned undeliverable mail.
  • Visiting your spouse’s last known address if feasible.
  • Contacting your spouse’s previous employer if known.
  • Getting in touch with relatives who may have contact information.
  • Searching online.
  • Checking with the local Electoral Registration Office if your spouse is registered to vote in your region.
  • Reviewing criminal court records.
  • Consulting the United States military locate webpage.
  • Checking local hospitals and homeless shelters.
  • Providing any additional relevant information.

The Process for Divorcing Someone You Haven’t Seen in Years 

How To Divorce Someone You Haven'T Seen In Years
How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years

Typically, divorce proceedings involve serving divorce papers to your spouse at their last known address or in person if they can be reached. However, if you’ve been unable to locate your spouse despite reasonable efforts, you can request an Order of Notice by Publication from the court.

This involves publishing a notice of your intent to divorce your marriage in a newspaper at your spouse’s last known address. Usually, this “legal advertisement” runs for three weeks, allowing your spouse time to respond to the final notification.

What Happens if a Motion Is Granted or Denied 

How To Divorce Someone You Haven'T Seen In Years
How To Divorce Someone You Haven’T Seen In Years

If your spouse fails to respond, you and your attorney can proceed to finalize the divorce by default, even if you haven’t located them or they choose not to participate. Publication of notice is often the best option when your spouse is missing.

The court assesses your “reasonable efforts” to locate your spouse, which may include reaching out to friends and family, checking social media, serving papers at the last known address, and searching public records. If, despite these efforts, your spouse remains elusive, you can request alternative service via a Motion for Alternative or Substituted Service. The court will evaluate your motion and provide instructions for serving your spouse, often by publishing a notice.

If your motion is denied, the court will specify additional actions you must take to locate your spouse. You can re-file the motion once these tasks are completed.

Read More : How Much Is A Divorce In Tn

Default Procedure for Divorce 

In some cases, you can finalize your divorce without locating your spouse by using a default procedure. The steps include:

  1. Obtaining a Default Application and Affidavit.
  2. Completing these forms.
  3. Submitting them.
  4. Sending a filed copy to the last known address if your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown.
  5. Waiting ten days.
  6. Requesting a default hearing.
  7. Preparing necessary documents for the hearing.
  8. Attending the hearing, where the judge may ask questions before finalizing the divorce.

Read More : How Much Does It Cost To Modify A Divorce Decree


Navigating a divorce when you haven’t seen your spouse in years can be a complex and time-consuming process. Consulting with an attorney is crucial to ensure you follow the correct procedures. In conclusion:

  • Locating a missing spouse requires diligent efforts and may involve various means such as contacting relatives, searching online, and publishing a legal notice in a newspaper.
  • Divorce by publication is an option when efforts to locate your spouse have been unsuccessful.
  • The court may grant a motion for alternative or substituted service if reasonable efforts fail.
  • Default procedures can be used to finalize the divorce without locating your spouse.

Seeking legal advice can help streamline this process and ensure that you adhere to the legal requirements of your jurisdiction.