How do you get a divorce when you don’t know where your spouse is?

10 years ago I was in the army and stationed overseas. While I was there my wife left with our then 2 year old daughter. I have tried to find them contacted her family they claim to not know where she is. I have tried social media Facebook ect. with no luck. I want to get married to my girlfriend but I want it to be legal. How do I divorce her if I can’t find her?

Asked on February 25, 2016 under Family Law, Michigan


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you want a divorce but don't know where your wife is, you can serve the divorce complaint to her by providing notice via "publication". This is a legal tool employed when the respondent (your wife) cannot be located by the petitioner (you). In order to obtain such a divorce, you'll need to perform a thorough and diligent search for your missing spouse. You'll need to look in the same general location in which she was last known to reside (you can search DMV records, voter registration records, the telephone book, etc.). If you fail to locate her, you can then apply to have the court issue an order of publication. Once the judge signs off on such an order, a legal notice will be sent to the newspaper(s) specified in the order. If your wife doesn't respond within the allowed time period (typically 30-60 days), you can file the divorce by "default". Then, in approximately 2 to 6 months you should receive your final judgment. That being said, state laws vary as to these pprocedures, so you should consult directly with a divorce lawyer in your area; they can further advise you.

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