How can I get a divorce if I’ve been abandoned for 14 years but have no idea where my wife is?

Asked on May 29, 2017 under Family Law, South Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In such a situation as yours, there is something in the law known as "service by publication". The fact is that no legal action can be taken against a person without their first being given notice of the proceedings; this is so that they have the chance to appear and explain their side of things. Consequently, in the case of a divorce, even if a spouse can't be located they still must be "notified" before the case can proceed. Service by publication is accomplished by having the filing spouse (i.e the "petitioner") make a good faith effort to find their missing spouse (i.e. the "respondent"). The petitioner must then present proof to the court that they made a true and diligent effort to locate the respondent. Once this is done to the satisfaction of the judge, they will be allowed to serve the missing spouse notice by publishing that there is a divorce proceeding in a newspaper in the spouse's last known whereabouts (as opposed to personally serving them). As a general rule, the respondent has 30-60 days to file their answer. If they fail to do so within the specified timeframe, the petitioner can then file a request to enter a "divorce by default", although the respondent is given a certain time limit in which they can file an appeal. At this point, you can consult directly with a divorce attorney in your area, as they can best advise you further.

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