How do you get a divorce if you have not seen or heard from you spouse for 18 years and have no idea of where they are?

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How do you get a divorce if you have not seen or heard from you spouse for 18 years and have no idea of where they are?

Asked on October 9, 2015 under Family Law, South Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

In such a situation, the law provides a legal remedy known as "divorce by publication". Basically, before any legal action can be taken against a person, they must be given an opportunity to appear in court and explain their side. In other words, they must be given "notice" of the action.  
A "divorce by publication" allows a spouse to be served notice of the divorce action via a notice in a newspaper. The filing spouse i.e. "petitioner" must make a dilegent effort to search for their missing spouse i.e. "respondent". They will have to present proof to the judge that they made good faith efforts to uncover the location of thier missing spouse. At that point, the petitioner will be allowed to serve the repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper instead of the more typicalmethod of personal service. The court will instruct the petitioner which newspaper should be used typically it will be in one that is in the area of the respondent's last known address. 
The respondent wiil then have 30-60 days to file an "answer". If they fil to do so, the petitioner can file a request to enter a "default divorce". As a general rule, it is granted upon the terms requested by the petitioner although the respondent is given a certain time period in which they can appeal.
At this point you should consult directly with a local divorce attorne they can best advise you of your rights/responsibilities under specific state law.


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