What is the first step that I should take in a divorce from a spouse whose exact whereabouts are unknown?

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What is the first step that I should take in a divorce from a spouse whose exact whereabouts are unknown?

I have been married since 2003 and have 2 kids. Approximately 2 years ago my husband upped and left. He went to Mexico where he claims he still is, yet I have good suspicions that he is in FL. As a single mom who is low-income I can’t afford to hire an attorney. However, I need to get divorce a started. I heard that running an ad in newspaper may help?

Asked on January 10, 2011 under Family Law, Oregon

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You can obtain a "divorce by default".  Your divorce papers need to be filled out and filed with the court. The court will then issue a citation, at which point your husband will need to be served.  In a case such as yours, notice of the divorce complaint can be "served" via a "notice by publication".  Again, this is a method of service used when a "respondent-spouse" (your husband) cannot be located by the "petitioner-spouse" (you) in a divorce proceeding. 

The way this works is that the respondent is notified of the divorce proceedings by publishing  notice in a local paper in the area of their last known address.  Then, after a specified period of time (usually 30 days or so), if your spouse does not answer that constitutes a "default".  Accordingyl you will then file your final paperwork and appear before the judge (typically in 60 days).  As a general rule, a divorce is then granted on the terms that you requested.

You can file for a divorce yourself or you can have an attorney do it for you. There are agencies, both private and government, that provide free representation to income eligable individuals. Qualifications may vary state-to-state, and even county-to-county.  However, Legal Aid is one of those agencies.   If you don't qualify for representation by Legal Aid, see if they can recommend someone to help you.  Also, check to see if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, you can contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.  Finally, google women's support groups in your area; they can usually provide a list of attorneys who can help.  Even your state's Department of Social Services may be able to refer you to free legal services.

Here is a link to a site that will expalin some of this further:  http://www.osbar.org/public/pamphlets/divorce.html


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