How can I proceed with a divorce if I don’t know where my husband is?

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How can I proceed with a divorce if I don’t know where my husband is?

He was the sole provider for our family and about 10 months ago abandoned us – no food, no shelter, no money, nothing. He resurfaced 4 months later and talked to his children, still no child support. He would not disclose where he was. He disappeared again 3 months ago. I don’t know where he is; I have attempted to contact previous employers, family, friends, and even apartment managers. I have no way to get ahold of him, so how can I proceed with a divorce?

Asked on July 6, 2015 under Family Law, New Mexico

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Even though you can't locate your husband, legal actioncannot taken against a person without giving them an opportunity to explain their side. Accordingly, notice must be givenof any legal action. In a situation such as this, a missing spouse must still must be informed of the divorce action before it can proceed. This is accomplished by what is caaled a "divorce by publication".

As a general rule in most jurisdictions, the filing spouse (i.e. "petitioner") must make a diligent effort to find their missing spouse (i.e. "respondent"). They will have to present proof to a court that they made every effort to search for them. Typically they will have to show that they checked with family/friends, voting records, the phone book, DMV, and any other source that would likely lead to uncovering their current location (such as checking with former landlords, as you have already done). 

At that point, the petitioner will be allowed to serve the repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper. The court will instruct you 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 timeframe, the petitioner can file a request to enter a "default dissolution" of the marriage (i.e. divorce). Generally it is granted upon the terms that the petitioner requests, such as alimony and child support (although the respondent is given a certain time in which they can appeal the divorce or its terms).

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


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 AttorneyPages.com 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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