How to File for Divorce Without Knowing Where the Other Spouse Is

By John Stevens J.D.

In the ordinary divorce process, a spouse who files for divorce must have a copy of the filed divorce papers personally served on the other spouse. This, of course, is not an option if the filing spouse doesn’t know where the other spouse is. The “missing” spouse cannot delay the divorce process by simply failing to inform his spouse where he is located. However, the divorcing spouse must first take reasonable steps to locate the other spouse.

Look through the telephone book that covers your local area for the name of your spouse. Even if you are confident that your spouse is unlisted, you must attempt to locate him.

Call directory assistance in the area where you know your spouse last resided and attempt to find a phone number for your spouse.

Visit the post office in the area where your spouse was last known to have lived to determine whether a forwarding address exists, unless it would not be practical to travel to the post office.

Ask people who know your spouse if they have an address or phone number for him.

Contact the property tax assessor’s office in the county where you suspect your spouse may be residing to determine whether your spouse owns property in that county. If so, the tax assessor’s office will provide you with the address.

Visit the court clerk’s office to acquire the necessary forms for permission to notify your spouse by publication.You must receive the permission of the court to do this. Making such a request is generally referred to as a motion for publication. The motion paperwork will ask you to provide the steps you have taken to locate your spouse. Provide the details of your attempts here. The paperwork will also include a notice which, if approved by the judge or court clerk, you will send to the newspaper for publication.

Contact a newspaper of general circulation in the area where you know your spouse last resided. Inform the newspaper that you wish to publish a legal notice. Follow the newspaper’s submission instructions.

Deliver the certification of publication form to the court clerk’s office. The newspaper will provide you with this. Ask the clerk how long you must give your spouse to respond. This period will vary by state.

Proceed with your divorce if your spouse files paperwork within the established response period or does not respond in the allotted time.