Can a Husband File for a Divorce If He Can't Find His Wife in Texas?
By Wayne Thomas
Texas law requires that you provide your spouse with a notice of a divorce action and afford her an opportunity participate. If, despite your best efforts, you cannot find your wife, you can request that the court allow you to give notice by publication. You must follow the rules of the court to pursue the divorce without your wife's presence.
Requirements to File
If cannot locate your spouse and want to pursue your divorce in Texas, you must meet the Texas residency requirements to file for divorce. This is important particularly if you were marred in another state or your spouse has little connection with Texas. Under state law, to file for a divorce, you must live in the state for the 6-month period prior to filing and in your Texas county for the preceding 90 days. Provided you qualify, you initiate the divorce process by filing a Petition for Divorce with the District Court in the county in which you live.
Texas law requires that you provide your wife with notice of the divorce and a copy of your petition. This is referred to as service of process. You must serve your wife in person, unless she waives service. Typically, you would have a sheriff or a professional process server serve her. If you cannot find your wife, you must still make an attempt to complete personal service.
If personal service fails, you can then petition the court to serve your wife by publication. However, before giving notice by publication, the court will require that you make a diligent search to find your wife. "Diligent" means that you can't simply give up if your spouse's address is unlisted. It requires aggressive action on your part. Examples of diligent efforts include checking with the post office to ascertain a forwarding address, calling your spouse's past employers, relatives and friends for current living information, and utilizing other resources, such as Internet databases and social networking sites. You might also contact the state criminal justice department and the military to make sure she is not in jail or active service.
Once you establish that, despite your diligence, you cannot find your wife, you may file an Affidavit for Citation by Publication and Diligent Search with the court. Additional paperwork you need to file includes a Certificate of Last Known Address and a Service Member's Affidavit. These documents must describe in detail all of your efforts to find your wife -- and you must notarize them. If the court accepts the affidavit, you may request that the clerk publish notice in the newspaper for 4 consecutive weeks. If your wife does not file a written answer within 20 days after publication is complete, you may proceed without her participation, which is referred to as a default divorce.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."