If my wife and I are separated more than 2 years but she has left the state and I cannot find her, how can I get a divorce without her signature?

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If my wife and I are separated more than 2 years but she has left the state and I cannot find her, how can I get a divorce without her signature?

Asked on October 6, 2012 under Family Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There is something known as "divorce by publication" in a case in which a spouse's whereabouts are unknown. By way of background, in any legal proceeding "notice" is critical. Legal action cannot be taken against someone without giving them the right to appear and explain their side of things (here, to answer the divorce complaint). Accordingly, even if a spouse can't be located they still must be notified of the divorce action before it can proceed. This is what is divorce by publication accomplishes.

Basically, here is the way it works: You as the filing spouse (i.e. Petitioner) must make a good faith effort to find your missing spouse (i.e. Respondent). You will have to present proof to a court that you made a genuine effort to locate her. Once you have convinced the court of this, you will be allowed to serve your spouse by publishing notice in a newspaper (as opposed to personal service). The court will instruct as to which paper should be used; typically it's one in the area of your spouse's last known address. 

In most states, the Respondent has 30-60 days to file a reply. If they fail to within that time, the Petitioner files a request to enter a default dissolution of marriage.  isgenerally granted upon the terms requested (although the Respondent is given a certain time limit in which they can appeal).


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