If I haven’t seen my husband in several years and don’t know where he is, how can I file for divorce?

Asked on July 19, 2015 under Family Law, Iowa


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No court action can be taken against a person without giving them an opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, notice must be given to any party named in a legal siut.And this includes divorce. In a situation in which a spouse is missing the law allows for what is known as a "divorce by publication".

Pursuant to this, the "petitioner (i.e. the filing spouse) must make a diligent effort to find the "respondent" (i.e. the missing spouse). They will have to present proof to a court that they made every effort to search for them, such as checking with family/friends/former landlords, the phone book, the DMV, voting records, and any other source likely to lead to the absent spouse's location..

After that, if there is no success in discovering the spouse's whereabouts, the petitioner will be allowed to serve the repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper. The court will instruct as to which paper(s) to use. Typically it will be in one that is in the area of their last known whereabouts.

In most states, the respondent has 30-60 days to file an answer after the first day of publication. If they fail to respond within that time, the petitioner can file a request to enter a "default dissolution" of marriage (i.e. divorce). Generally it is granted upon the terms that the petitioner requests (although the respondent is given a certain time in which they can appeal the divorce or its terms).

At this point you should consult directly further with a divorce attorney in your area. They can best advise as to specific state law.

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