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Divorcing a Missing Spouse


Did your unhappy marriage come to a screeching halt when your spouse skipped town and left no forwarding address?  Do you want to put the whole thing behind you by filing for a legal divorce?  If there are no children involved, you can get that divorce and move on with your life even if you never find the scoundrel, with the assistance of a local divorce attorney. Here’s how:

Divorce by Publication 

The fact of the matter is, a legal remedy exists for divorce when someone cannot locate their spouse.  It’s called divorce by publication, and is an option if you can convince a judge that you’ve searched, but have been unable to locate your missing spouse.

The usual protocol in divorce relies on the sheriff’s office or other means notifying the defendant that divorce proceedings are afoot.  But when the Petitioner cannot locate the defendant after what’s known as a diligent search, the court allows for proceedings to go forward without the missing spouse.

Search Requirements 

A diligent search has very specific requirements that must be met in order for your divorce to proceed. Although time consuming and perhaps a bit daunting, following these steps is the only way you can divorce your missing spouse. The steps include:

  • Checking with previous employers, professional licensure organizations, and unions if applicable;
  • Contacting relatives and friends who may have information as to the whereabouts of the Respondent;
  • Filling out a Process Server or Boxholder Request form and delivering it to a post office nearest the last known address of the Respondent;
  • Conducting a thorough Internet search using Switchboard.com;
  • Requesting information from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website;
  • Checking inmate records through the Sheriff’s office, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Florida Department of Corrections, and printing out each search;
  • Examining military records through the Florida Courts website and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website and attaching applicable forms;
  • Contacting hospitals and morgues in the area last known to be the Respondent’s home;
  • Investigating records with utility companies in the area last known to be the Respondent’s residence;
  • Checking with Tax Assessors/Collectors.

When each of these tasks have been completed by your attorney, you must submit a notarized  Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court, indicating that you have, indeed, exhausted all avenues in your attempt to locate the missing spouse.

Public Notice 

Now, a summons of divorce must be printed each week for four consecutive weeks in a local newspaper.  At the end of the four weeks, your spouse has one month to respond.  If there is no response, a petition may be filed to grant the divorce by default.  Barring no further response from the missing spouse, the divorce will be finalized shortly thereafter.

Legal Advocacy 

While it does require some effort to divorce a missing spouse,  the assistance of the adept and knowledgeable Boca Raton divorce lawyers at WiseLieberman, PLLC can render it pretty painless, and the whole thing can be over with in just a few short months. To discuss your situation, contact our Boca Raton office for a confidential consultation today.



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