How Can I Get a Divorce if I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is?

Anderson, Creager and Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O.
Divorce concept with gavel and wedding rings

Navigating through any divorce can be daunting, but it can be even more difficult when you don't know the whereabouts of your spouse. We at Anderson, Creager, and Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O., understand the emotional turmoil, and uncertainty that comes with such a situation. We're here to provide you with valuable guidance and support, making this complex process as smooth as possible for you. 

Serving Divorce Papers to a Missing Spouse 

The first hurdle in filing for divorce when you don’t know where your spouse is lies in serving the divorce papers. It's a necessary step, but it doesn't have to be an impossible one. Initially, we recommend you make every reasonable effort to locate your spouse. This might involve online searches, reaching out to mutual friends, or even hiring a professional investigator. Documenting these efforts is crucial, as it demonstrates your earnest attempt to find your spouse, which the court will take into consideration. 

When all efforts to locate your spouse prove futile, alternative methods come into play. One such method is a publication notice. You can petition the court for permission to serve the divorce papers via a 'Service by Publication' showing the reasonable efforts you have made to have your spouse personally served. A 'Service by Publication' involves publishing a notice in a local newspaper for a specified duration.

The Process to Divorce If There Is No Response 

Upon the completion of the stipulated period of publication and if there is still no response from your spouse, you may file for a 'Default Judgment'. This is a court's ruling in favor of the petitioner (you) based on the unresponsiveness of the other party (your spouse). You'll need to file a motion with the court requesting a default judgment, providing all evidence related to the case. Because your spouse was not personally served, however, the court will be unable to enter orders regarding financial matters, such as a division of assets and debts, spousal support and child support. In the event your spouse is located after the divorce, you may ask the court to enter an order regarding these issues.

Finally, the court will review your case. If the judge accepts the situation and your evidence as sufficient, they will grant the divorce, and you can move forward. This entire process may seem overwhelming, but with the right legal guidance, you can successfully navigate through it. Always remember to consult with a skilled family law attorney well-versed in divorce law to ensure your interests are protected. 

Divorce Process If There Is a Response 

In the event that your missing spouse responds to the divorce papers, the process becomes more akin to a traditional divorce procedure. Their response, typically in the form of an Answer, essentially signifies their intention to participate in the divorce proceedings.  

With their involvement, the court will likely proceed to address pertinent issues such as division of property, child custody, spousal support, and other relevant matters. During this phase, both parties may present their respective arguments and evidence to support their claims.  

The process may involve negotiation or mediation, wherein both parties, with the aid of their respective attorneys, attempt to resolve any disputes amicably. Mediation could prove to be beneficial as it allows for a more flexible, private, and less confrontational resolution.  

Should negotiations or mediation fail to result in an agreement, the case may then proceed to trial. At trial, the judge will hear arguments from both sides and make rulings on any contested issues.  

Regardless of the stage, it's crucial to have the guidance and advocacy of an experienced divorce attorney. They will protect your rights and help navigate the complexities of the divorce process. Therefore, if your missing spouse responds to the divorce papers, immediately consult a reputable divorce attorney to discuss the best way forward. 

What If the Spouse Responds Once But Then Not Again? 

In situations where your spouse initially responds to the divorce papers, but subsequently becomes unresponsive, the case can take a different turn. The initial response indicates their intent to participate in the divorce proceedings. If they fail to continue participating, for instance, by not showing up to court dates or not responding to further legal communications, you might be able to proceed with the case as if it were a default divorce. This means that the court could potentially grant the divorce based on the information provided by you and would also be able to enter orders on financial matters.

However, it's critically important to understand that laws can vary significantly based on your jurisdiction and the specifics of your case. Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, it's advisable to consult your attorney immediately. They can advise you on the most appropriate steps to take, ensuring your interests are sufficiently protected. 

Take Your Next Steps Forward 

When dealing with the complexities of filing for divorce when you don't know where your spouse is, we at Anderson, Creager and Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O. are here to help. Our experienced family law attorneys will discuss your situation and explore your legal options, providing you with the reassurance and support you need during this challenging time. 

Don't navigate this journey alone. If you are in the Lincoln, Nebraska, area—including Lancaster County, Gage County, Saline County, Seward County, Otoe County, Cass County, Saunders County, and more—reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.