Divorcing an Absent Spouse Requires Detective Work
Your marriage failed. You are convinced there is no saving it. You want a divorce. The problem is you have no idea where your estranged spouse is, and the law requires you inform him or her of your intentions before a divorce is granted. Does this mean you are at a dead end? Not necessarily. Courts can grant divorces under such circumstances provided certain requirements are met. If you need assistance with a divorce in Hunterdon County, the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm of Lebanon can help.
Whether your spouse has abandoned you – in itself, grounds for a divorce – or you have been separated so long that you’ve lost touch, not knowing the whereabouts of an estranged spouse is not an unheard of situation. Specific requirements to obtain a divorce under these circumstances, known as divorce by default, vary from state to state. (1) There are, however, a few basic guidelines to follow.
The first step in all divorces is to file an application, or petition, for divorce with the court in the county in which you live. Usually when you file this petition, your estranged spouse is served with notice of your intentions. When your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, you should request an affidavit for service by publication, or “substitute service of process.” This affidavit requests the court allow you to notify your estranged spouse through publication of a legal notice in the newspaper rather than in person. By filing this affidavit, you are telling the court, under oath, that you have no knowledge of the whereabouts of your spouse. (2)
Before the affidavit for service by publication can be filed, you must prove you have taken sufficient steps – or done due diligence – to locate your spouse. This may include contacting relatives or former employers; checking with the post office, voter registration office or motor vehicle department for change of address filings; performing searches on the internet search; and checking the social networking sites as well. (3)
If your searches fail to turn up any new information regarding your spouse’s whereabouts, the court may allow service by publication. This legal notice should be published in a newspaper covering an area that includes your spouse’s last known address. How often and for how long such notices must run in the paper depends upon the state in which you live. Once the required time has elapsed and there is no word from your spouse, the court will then rule on the divorce by default. (1)
Hunterdon County New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Divorcing an absent spouse requires more effort than an ordinary divorce. You can undertake the research on your spouse’s whereabouts yourself or seek the assistance of a private investigator or attorney. You should note, however, that courts rarely decide financial aspects of divorce in this type of action, meaning matters such as division of property or child support details can remain unsettled. Because such divorces, particularly if they involve children, can be more complicated, you may wish to seek the advice of an experienced Hunterdon County divorce attorney. If you or someone you know needs assistance with next steps in the situation of divorce of a spouse with unknown whereabouts, contact the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm.