Deciding to end a marital relationship is difficult for everyone. For some, this choice will be followed by immediately filing for divorce and separating from their partner. However, this is not always the case. In other situations, a couple may decide to delay getting a divorce right away for a number of reasons such as financial or emotional considerations. Over time, the couple may lose touch with one another or one partner may have moved away. When the remaining partner wants to proceed with the divorce and cannot find the other, he or she may not know how to go forward. Fortunately, completing your divorce when your spouse is missing is possible.
Service of the Process
After filing for divorce, the initiating party must properly serve the opposing side with a copy of the documents they have filed with the court. In many cases, this is accomplished through personally serving the other person by having a law enforcement officer or process server physically hand them the documents. If your spouse cannot be located and you have not served them, you will have to ask the court to serve them through something called service by publication.
To serve your former partner by publication you will have to show that you tried in good faith to find your spouse but have been unable to do so. Additionally, Florida law requires the serving party to complete and file a sworn affidavit detailing the efforts they have made to find their former spouse. This is usually demonstrated through efforts such as calling his or her last number or job, contacting relatives, or searching social media. If your request is approved, you will be able to publish notice of the divorce suit in a local newspaper. If, after the notice has run, your spouse does not file a response with the court, you can then ask the court to grant a default divorce.
While service by publication seems simple, it does take time. After you publish, the other party will have a period to respond. Additionally, while service can be accomplished in this manner, without both parties, the court cannot divide assets and debts, award child support or alimony, or create a time-sharing agreement. However, you can get your actual divorce, even when your former spouse is nowhere to be found.
At the Draper Firm, we have divorce attorneys who have experience helping clients get divorced when their former spouse cannot be located. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We invite you to learn more about our firm here.