How do you get a divorce with an absent spouse?

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How do you get a divorce with an absent spouse?

I live in CA and I think my wife lives in WAbut I’m not sure. I’ve made several attempts to contact her and she’s not responding. We have already agreed on divorce but now I can’t find her. What should I do?

Asked on August 27, 2011 California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The concept of "notice" in any legal proceeding is essential.  In a divorce setting this means that even if a spouse can't be located there must still be an attempt to notify them of the divorce action before it can proceed.  This is accomplished through what is known as "divorce by publication", which is allowed in CA.

Basically the way ot works is as follows. You as the filing spouse (i.e. the "petitioner") must make a diligent effort to find your husband (i.e. the "respondent").  You will have to present proof to a court that you made a thorough search to locate him. To prove that you have made a food faith effort, you will have to show the court that you checked with family/friends, voting records, the phone book, DMV, and any other source that would likely lead to uncovering your spouse's whereabouts.  Once you have demonstrated to the the court's satisfaction that you have made a diligent search, it will allow you to serve your spouse by publishing notice in a newspaper (as opposed to the usual method of personal service). The court will instruct you as to which paper you should use; typically it is one in the area of a spouse's last known address.  

At that point, your husband will have 30 days to file a response (which begins to run 28 days after the first day of publication). If your husband fails to respond within the 30 days, you will file a request to enter a default dissolution of marriage. No hearing is held. The divorce becomes final 6 months after the first publication of the summons in the newspaper.

Note: While the court can grant the divorce in a publication action, it cannot make any decisions regarding child custody, child support or division of property.


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