If I want to file for divorce and I live in one state andmy spouse lives in another but I don’t know her address, what do I do?

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If I want to file for divorce and I live in one state andmy spouse lives in another but I don’t know her address, what do I do?

Asked on November 9, 2011 under Family Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Before legal action can be taken against a person they must be given an opportunity to appear and explain their side. This is what is called "notice".  When a spouse cannot be located, then there is something known as "divorce by publication", which is a remedy that allows for a divorce in such a situation. 

The way a divorce works in such a situation is like this - The Petitioner (i.e. the filing spouse) must make a diligent search to find the Respondent (i.e. the missing spouse). The Petitioner then has to present proof to a court that they made good faith efforts to uncover the Respondent's whereabouts. At that point, the court will allow the Petitioner to "serve" the Repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper. The court will then instruct the Petitioner as to which newspaper should be used; typically one that is in the area of the Respondent's last known address/location). 

The Respondent then has 30-60 days to file their answer. If they fail to to do so, the Petitioner can request the court to enter a "default divorce". Generally, such a divorce is granted upon the terms requested, although the Respondent is given a certain period of time in which appeal.

At this point you should consult directly with a divorce attorney in your area. They can advise you as to your specific rights/remedies.


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