Spouse refusing to sign divorce paperwork, lives in another state, homeless, facing felony charges. What are my options?

Recently sent my husband Simplified divorce papers to his lawyer (am in FL). He is out on bail while facing possible felony charges and is living in the woods in a tent. (not a real campsite) He still has a cell, and i know all his relatives. So i basically know where he is, but don’t have a way to have him served. He got the first packet i sent and is refusing to sign. He has made threats against me. I don’t want anything from him- no kids, no debts, no money. I’m a fulltime student, he’s ex army. Been living apart 9 months. What are my options? How can i get a divorce?

Asked on July 1, 2009 under Family Law, Florida


Joanna Mitchell / Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A.

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If he has an attorney, it is possible that his attorney may accept service on his behalf. If the attorney will not accept service on his behalf, then you would need to attempt to serve him and make a good faith effort to locate him for that service. If that is unsuccesful, then you could perform service via publication. Because you have no disputed issues, once service by publication is effectuated, he would have the chance to respond. If he fails to, then we would default him, and once the default is entered the Final Judgment hearing can be scheduled to have the divorce finalized.

Ultimately, in Florida, there is no way that he can stop you from getting a divorce, although with his non-cooperation, it may lengthen the process somewhat.

My office offers free initial consultations if you would like to discuss this matter further. Please call 407-971-6140 should you wish to schedule a consultation.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Although I am not admitted in Florida I do understand that Florida has a Simplified Divorce Proceeding for persons who represent themselves. Is this what you are referring to?   It is my understanding that the requirements are as follows:

1. You do not have children and the wife is not currently pregnant AND

2. You have a written agreement to divide your property AND

3. Both of you sign the petition and appear at the court for the final hearing

If you meet these 3 requirements, you should use the Simplified Petition (Form 901(a))

If you both cannot attend the final hearing, you cannot use the Simplified procedures. If have children, you cannot use the Simplified procedure. If there is a dispute about property, you cannot use the Simplified procedure. In any of these situations, you will have to use the regular procedure and the regular petition.

It appears that your Husband will not cooperate to use this procedure. You need to retain an attorney to have him served by a professional process server or by publication if you really can not locate him (a affidavit from someone with knowledge about his circumstances which seem extreme) with regular divorce papers.   And seek advice about a restraining order as you said he made threats against you. Good luck. 

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