How do I start and finalize my divorce if my husband disappeared 3 years ago and neither I or his family know where he is?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How do I start and finalize my divorce if my husband disappeared 3 years ago and neither I or his family know where he is?

I left my husband 7 years ago; 4 years later I was granted primary custody of our then 15 year old son. His father was so infuriated, he disowned and abandoned our son with no contact. I want to start and finalize my divorce but have not been able to track down my husband by doing background searches, asking g his family of his whereabouts, only to find out he severed all contact with him. How do I proceed forward without being able to serve him and notify him of my impending divorce?

Asked on July 18, 2018 under Family Law, California


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

When a spouse cannot be located, there is a legal remedy of "divorce by publication" which allows the filing spouse to give a missing spouse notice of the divorce prodeedings. The filing spouse (i.e. the "petitioner") must make a diligent effort to find their missing spouse (i.e. the "respondent"). The petitioner then has to present the court with proof that they made genuinely tried to locate the respondent. At that point, the petitioner is allowed to "serve" the respondent by publishing notice of the divorce proceedings in a newspaper (the court will instruct as to which one). The respondent will then have about 30-60 days to file an "answer". If they fail to do so in the time alloted, then the petitioner can ask the court if they can enter a "divorce by default". As a general rule, such a divorce is granted upon the terms requested. At this point, you can consult directly with a local divorce attorney who can best advise you as to how to proceed.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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