Spouses do lose contact with one another, sometimes accidentally and, other times, one will hide from the other for various reasons. In a conventional divorce through a local, expensive, full-service law firm, it may be possible to get a divorce from a spouse who cannot be found; but, the court cannot simply be told that the other party cannot be found. There is a special process for such cases which is used to prove to the judge that the other spouse really cannot be located and informed about the divorce or served divorce papers. The official term is a Good Faith Investigation and Special Order of Court.
Through your lawyer – who will have to make two or more court appearances in this process – the efforts made to locate your missing spouse will have to be carefully done and recorded and presented to a judge who will then determine whether you have tried hard enough or just “went through the motions”.
Among other efforts, proof that mail was sent to the spouse’s last known addresses (and given plenty of time to “bounce” if not received) both by ordinary and certified mail will be required. Results of contact with the spouse’s relatives, associates, friends, employers and the like may be required. Proof that searches of public records, such as vehicle ownership, driver’s license, voting registration, real estate ownership, payment of certain taxes and the like may be insisted upon by the court.
In many instances, an ad must be taken out in both a newspaper of general circulation as well as in the legal publication serving a likely area. These ads are typically rather long and, thus, rather expensive.
All in all, the court must be completely satisfied that every reasonable effort has been made to find your spouse and all have failed before your divorce can proceed. Of course, this is not at all possible in a no-fault divorce wherein the separation time is not long enough to proceed without the other party’s written consent. Proceeding this way is therefore possible in a no-fault case with the required separation time of one or two years or in a fault, as opposed to no-fault divorce.
Obviously, this process takes a lot of time…and a lot of money. The alternative can be a simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce with your missing spouse’s signature. There’s the distinction: Getting the spouse’s signature, not finding the spouse. You can save a lot of lawyer fees by establishing a way to get your spouse’s signature without knowing his or her whereabouts.
Think of people who might know the whereabouts or hear from the spouse, but do not ask such people for contact info or even if they know it or hear from the spouse. Explain that you want a low-cost divorce, but need your spouse’s signature and IF a person could ever somehow get word to your spouse, the document needing the signature could be gotten to the spouse indirectly without anyone even admitting knowledge of the spouse’s location.
Done that way, if a possible contact person likes you or your spouse, that person could do the favor of helping the divorce go through without admitting anything or giving up any confidential info. It boils down to your doing the legwork to get your spouse’s signature or paying thousands in legal fees and expenses. The divorce will never happen on its own, no matter how much time passes.
If you have things to settle I can help you. I urge you to call me, Monday through Friday, noon to 3 PM, toll-free at 1-800-486-4070, BEFORE you begin your case, for an absolutely free consultation about your particular situation. Alternatively, you can read our free information guide which answers many questions you may have before your divorce.