Where do I start a divorce ifI haven’t seen my wife in years?

UPDATED: Oct 4, 2011

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Where do I start a divorce ifI haven’t seen my wife in years?

I want to start a divorce but I don’t have a ton of money. My ex-wife has not been seen by me in 5 years. I have tried to find her but she is probably a vagrant now. How do I start with out a high price lawyer?

Asked on October 4, 2011 under Family Law, Washington


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In a situation such as there is a legal remedy - "divorce by publication". This allows a spouse to be served "notice" of a divorce action. The fact is that legal action cannot not taken against a person without giving them an opportunity to appear and explain their side.  

The filing spouse (or "petitioner") must make a good faith effort to find their missing spouse (or "respondent").  They have to present proof to a court that they made a diligent search to uncovering their missing spouse's whereabouts. Then and only then will the petitioner will be allowed to serve the repondent by publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper, instead of the more typical method of personal service of a summons.  The court will instruct as to which newspaper should be used; it will be in one that is in the area of the respndent's last known location. 

The respondent has 30-60 days to file an answer. If they fail to do so, the petitioner can then 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 in which they can appeal).

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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