What If I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is?

Sometimes couples separate without taking any formal action to end their marriage. Then at some point (often years later), one spouse decides they want to be divorced, but no longer knows how to locate the other spouse.

The issue then is one of serving the legal papers on the missing spouse. Normally personal service is required, meaning that someone has to hand-deliver the papers to the person, and then file an affidavit stating when and where the papers where delivered. However, under certain circumstances the court can grant permission for an alternate form of service of the papers.

In order to get permission for alternate service, we will need to explain to the court why the spouse cannot be located as well as what reasonable efforts we have made to locate the spouse (searching online and in phone books, contacting relatives and friends, etc.) It is not enough to simply say you don’t know where they are, we have to show they cannot be found through reasonable efforts.

The usual form of alternate service is by publication – putting a special kind of notice in a local paper that advises the person of the action that has been filed with the court. However, this is time consuming and expensive (the notice must run once a week for six weeks). Therefore, when possible we seek a different kind of alternative service – by mailing to last know address. To qualify for this option we need to have a last known address, but that does not have to be a current address. It just has to be the last address we had for the person (though the address they lived at with you may not be enough). Then we have to show that the mailed notice is at least as likely to reach the person as the publication, which is not a very difficult standard as almost anything is better than publication in terms of giving actual notice.