Can I Get A Divorce If I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is?


Can I Get A Divorce If I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is?


The answer is “yes”; this type of divorce is called a divorce by publication.

Submit an Application for Publication

 When the service of divorce documents occurs “by publication”, this means that the court approves the circulation of a legal notice in a newspaper in the last known county or jurisdiction in which your spouse was known to have resided. To obtain the court’s approval, you must submit a form to the court called an Application for Publication.

Before an Application for Publication form is approved, the law requires that a “diligent effort” must have first been made to search for your spouse in the county or jurisdiction where that person was last known to live. You can do this by searching for your spouse through telephone directories and the internet. You can also contact your spouse’s family members, friends or various agencies (the post office, the board of elections, branches of the military, DMV, etc.) and ask whether they know of your spouse’s current or last place of residence. If these efforts result in finding your spouse, notice of your divorce action can be served without the use of a legal notice in a newspaper. It’s important that you document your search as you are making it, listing all sources, dates and contact information, because you will need this to show that you made a diligent effort to locate your spouse.

Legal notice in the newspaper the equivalent of a summons

However, if you’ve exhausted your efforts and the search fails to locate your spouse, you can apply to the court using an Application for Publication. The application lists all the search efforts so that the court sees that a “diligent effort” was made to find the missing spouse. When an Order of Publication is signed by the judge, you can then publish a legal notice in a newspaper stating that you are bringing a divorce action against your spouse. This is the legal equivalent of “serving notice” with a “summons.”

There are a few rules regarding the Order of Publication. One is that the legal notice (really a legal ‘advertisement”) must be placed in the newspaper within 30 days after the judge has signed the order. The order will specify what newspaper (usually one published where the missing spouse was last known to have lived) and that the notice must appear once per week for four successive weeks.

30 days: divorce by default

If after 30 days from the date when the third and last advertisement was published, the missing spouse does not respond, your lawyer can file your divorce “by default.” This means that, despite a thorough search effort and sufficient legal notice in a newspaper, the missing spouse has failed to respond to your intention to seek a divorce. He or she is considered to have “defaulted,” and your divorce will then be granted.

California Document Preparers will help you with all of these steps: We prepare and file the documents, arrange the newspaper ad and make sure the Affidavit of Publication is filed with the court after the notice has finished running in the newspaper.

Contact one of California Document Preparers’ office today; you can still get divorced–even if your spouse is missing! 

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