Can You Divorce a Missing Spouse?

  • 28 Jun 2023

Divorce is often a challenging and emotionally taxing process, and it becomes even more complicated when one spouse is missing. Dealing with a missing spouse raises numerous questions about the legality and feasibility of obtaining a divorce. Understanding the following general principles can provide insight into this unique situation.

Divorce Laws Vary by State

It is crucial to note that divorce laws applicable to divorcing a missing spouse vary depending on the state in which you reside. Each state has its own set of laws and procedures concerning divorce, including those that pertain to situations involving missing spouses. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney who is well-versed in your state’s regulations to determine the specific requirements and options available to you.

Attempted Service of Process

Before a divorce can be granted, the law typically requires that the missing spouse be served with divorce papers. This step aims to ensure that the absent party is aware of the divorce proceedings. In cases where the whereabouts of a spouse are unknown, states often require that diligent efforts be made to locate and serve the missing spouse. These efforts may include conducting thorough searches, publishing notices in newspapers, or utilizing private investigators.

Waiting Period

If a missing spouse cannot be located despite diligent efforts, many states impose a waiting period before the divorce proceedings can move forward. This period allows for a reasonable amount of time for the missing spouse to be found or for any potential objections to be raised. The waiting period varies depending on the state of residence and can range from several months to a year.

Default Divorce

In situations where the missing spouse cannot be located or fails to respond within the designated time frame, the court may proceed with a default divorce. A default divorce occurs when the court grants the divorce based on the petitioner’s testimony alone, without the participation or consent of the missing spouse. This option is generally available when all reasonable attempts to locate the missing spouse have been exhausted.

Divorcing a missing spouse is a complex matter. If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the specific legal requirements that apply to your situation. While the legal processes may vary, the objective remains the same: to provide a fair and just resolution to the dissolution of the marriage, even in the absence of one of the spouses.

Family Law Attorney in Rockville, MD

The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado  offers experience in all affairs of family law, including divorce, child support, custody cases, domestic abuse cases, and more. If you need to initiate divorce proceedings and your spouse cannot be located, we can help! 

Call now to learn how we can assist you.

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