Though there are many reasons for divorce, divorces usually fall into two categories: no-fault and at-fault. The legal distinctions between these can vary state to state, as can the necessary paperwork, filing fees, and logistics. But what happens if you want a divorce and you can’t locate your spouse?

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You might be a candidate for “Divorce by Publication.”

Though the laws that govern Divorce by Publication vary from state to state, they generally require that the two spouses have been living apart for a minimum amount of time. Though you can get a Divorce by Publication on your own, it’s recommended you get the help of an experienced attorney if your spouse has left town or is otherwise absent.

Here’s how the process works:

Typically, your attorney will have an “original petition for divorce” served to your spouse at their last known address. Your attorney will contact the spouse’s most recent landlord, local post offices, etc. But, if after that “diligent effort,” your spouse cannot be reached, you can typically file for a divorce by publication.

This means that you must run a notice of your intent to divorce your spouse in a newspaper near the area of the spouse’s last known whereabouts. Generally, you’ll run this “legal advertisement” for about three weeks and your spouse will be given a month to respond to the final notice. If they do not? You and your attorney may file your divorce by default. This means that, though you made a diligent effort to locate your spouse, they did not respond to any summons, services, or publications.

The whole process is less intensive than it sounds. Plus, judges generally look kindly on the party who applies for divorce by publication. It is not uncommon to receive custody of children and any property you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. 


Get started Ask a Divorce Lawyer a Question You'll hear back in one business day

Get started Ask a Divorce Lawyer a Question You'll hear back in one business day