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How Do I File For Divorce If I Don’t Know Where My Spouse is?

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The Process of Filing for A Divorce Without Your Spouse

If your ex-spouse is MIA and you’re ready to get a divorce so you can move on with your life, it’s undoubtedly a frustrating situation. The good news is that you have options, but the process is complex, and some criteria must be met before you can file your divorce petition. Here are the steps you need to take.

It Starts With a Divorce by Publication

A “divorce by publication,” also known as a missing spouse divorce or one signature divorce, is used when the whereabouts of one spouse are unknown. However, using a divorce by publication means proving to a judge (under oath) that you have done all you can to find your spouse, but have been unsuccessful. A spouse without a forwarding address cannot be traditionally served with papers. This means that you will be required to conduct a “diligent search” after being granted to proceed with divorce by publication.

What Does a “Diligent Search” Entail?

Florida requires petitioners of a divorce to search for the respondent and follow any leads that a diligent search may produce. The following are some of the actions that may be considered acceptable by the courts that you have conducted a diligent search:

  • Asking the postmaster for a forwarding address under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Searching phone directories of cities and towns your spouse may reside.
  • Seaching public tax records.
  • Searching motor vehicle records.
  • Ask friends, family members, former neighbors about possible whereabouts.
  • Contacting the last known employer of your spouse.

The above are just a few examples of how to begin your “diligent search.” Later in this article, we explain the importance of having an experienced divorce lawyer assist you with locating your spouse.

Filing an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry

Suppose the search is conducted to the court’s satisfaction. In that case, you can begin the process of filing for divorce by publication by filing an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, which is a notarized statement outlining all the efforts made in locating your spouse. At the same time, you can then prepare a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage. Once the court approves the Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, the Notice of Dissolution will be published once a week for four weeks in a newspaper that publishes classified legal advertisements. If your missing spouse does not respond within 28 days, you‘ll be able to file a Motion for Default, resulting in a default divorce.

The Importance of Having a Divorce Lawyer Assist You

When it comes to conducting a diligent search for your ex-spouse, it’s critical that no stone is left unturned and that the courts are satisfied that you’ve done all you can to locate your spouse. It’s also essential to have all necessary affidavits and other preparations appropriately done. Having an experienced attorney to assist you with this critical piece in getting your divorce can make all the difference in the outcome.

When You Need Help Getting The Divorce Process Started

Whether you are up against a contested or uncontested divorce, it’s critical to build and implement a personalized divorce strategy. When unsure how to get the process started, our attorneys are here to walk you through every step of the way. Know that you are not alone and help is available.

Contact Owenby Law, P.A. at (904) 770-3141 for a consultation today if you're ready to begin the divorce process.