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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 10 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).


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