To initiate a divorce action against your spouse, you need to serve them divorce papers. This is because you must provide them notice and an opportunity to respond. However, this can be difficult if you have not seen or spoken to your spouse for a long period of time. That said, you can divorce someone you haven’t seen in years provided you work with an experienced divorce attorney and follow the appropriate steps.
This guide by the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Schwartz, Fox, and Saltzman outlines how to divorce someone you haven’t seen in years.
Can You Get a Divorce If You Can’t Find Your Spouse?
Yes, you can get a divorce if you are unable to find your missing spouse. You may be able to obtain a no-fault uncontested divorce. However, you still must provide notice to your spouse that you intend to obtain a divorce.
Reasonable Efforts to Contact Your Spouse
The concept of service of process is a legal and constitutional cornerstone of the judicial system. Service of process can be difficult if you are unable to locate your spouse. However, 231 Pa. Code Rule 430 allows alternative service of process if you demonstrate reasonable efforts to locate, contact, and serve your spouse divorce papers.
1. Contact Friends & Family
One of the requirements for good faith investigation is that you attempted to learn your spouse’s current location. This can be accomplished by speaking with your spouse’s family and friends. Additionally, you can also speak with your spouse’s employer, co-workers, and neighbors.
2. Social Media
Social media platforms can also be a useful tool for locating your spouse. You may be able to strengthen an alternative service argument if you demonstrate your spouse’s social media accounts are still active. If you demonstrate an account is active, you can also attest you attempted to contact your spouse through their account attempting to locate where they live through social media.
3. Last Known Address
Another method of obtaining alternative service is by attempting to serve your spouse at their last known address. You have to demonstrate your spouse is still living at the address or a public record indicates the residence as the last known address. You then have to prove you attempted to serve or contact them at the last known address.
4. Public Records
A public records search is another tool that allows you to serve your spouse or build an argument for an alternative method of service. You must obtain records from agencies such as the motor vehicle administration or land records. If you are unable to obtain records with a new address, you must be able to demonstrate that you contacted these agencies and provide the reply from the agency.
Order of Notice by Publication
If you satisfy the court that you are unable to locate your spouse, you can seek alternative or substituted service by an Order of Notice of Publication or leaving the Divorce Complaint at the last known address, depending on the Court Order received from the Court. This allows you to place a legal notice regarding the divorce in a newspaper of general circulation and a newspaper of legal circulation in the area in which your spouse last resided. After publishing the notice, your spouse is considered served.
The Default Divorce Process
If you are unable to locate your spouse and instead served by a Notice of Publication, you can seek a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have been separated for more than one year. After you establish the grounds for your divorce, you can seek a final divorce decree. This allows the court to resolve any remaining issues such as division of property.
How a Divorce Lawyer Helps You During This Process
Obtaining alternative service is difficult but possible. A divorce attorney helps you move through this process so you can move on with your life. Contact Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman to learn about the services we can provide!