Abandonment by a spouse represents valid grounds for divorce. Although you may find that you possess a valid reason to end your marriage, you may wonder how to proceed with a divorce when your spouse is missing. The family law statutes of all states include provisions and mechanisms that allow you to proceed with a divorce even when your spouse is missing, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law.
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Go to the office of the clerk of the court in the county where you reside. Request three forms: complaint for divorce, affidavit for publication service and newspaper legal notice. Court clerks across the country typically maintain these forms for people not represented by attorneys.
Fill out the complaint for divorce, following the instructions provided. The complaint--called a petition in some jurisdictions--is the primary document needed to start your divorce. Note in the petition that your spouse's whereabouts are unknown.
Complete the affidavit for service by publication. With this document, you advise the court--under oath--that you do not know the location of your spouse and that you cannot find your spouse with reasonable effort. Therefore, you request that your spouse be served via a legal notice in the local newspaper. Service is the legal term for notifying a respondent that a divorce case is pending against him.
Sign the complaint for divorce and the affidavit for publication service in front of a notary public.
Return to the courthouse and file the complaint and the affidavit with the clerk. At this juncture, the clerk provides the information you include in the newspaper legal notice. The clerk may send the legal notice to the newspaper. In other locales, this is your responsibility. If you must deliver the legal notice yourself, the clerk will tell you whom to contact at the newspaper.
Obtain a motion for default judgment from the clerk when you file the initial divorce documents. Once the statutory time frame from the date of the publication of the legal notice to the date your absent spouse must respond to the complaint ends, a default judgment is possible. You must also wait the minimum amount of time required from the filing of the petition until a divorce can be granted to obtain a judgment in your favor.