What Do I Do If My Spouse Goes Missing During Our Divorce?

Divorce is the process of ending your relationship with your spouse and freeing yourself to start over again. But what happens when your spouse beats you to the punch and disappears before a judge can finalize the proceedings? Typically, you can get divorced even though your spouse is missing. But what a judge can award you will depend on whether your spouse disappeared before you filed for divorce or in the middle of the proceedings. Read on to find out what to do when your spouse goes missing during divorce.

Filing for Divorce when Your Spouse is Missing

Every spouse has an opportunity to respond to a divorce petition, which is why you must serve them with the divorce papers. When a spouse is missing, Georgia law 9-11-4(f)(1) allows for notice by publication in a newspaper. Before you can request permission to publish notice, however, you must undertake a diligent search to find your spouse. For example, you should check the following:

  • Call friends and relatives and ask if they have seen your spouse.
  • Contact professional organizations your spouse has belonged to.
  • Reach out to your spouse’s employer and ask if they have a recent address or otherwise know where your spouse is located.
  • Perform an Internet search. Check websites like Intelius, which might have the address.
  • Contact the Postal Service to request the last address of record.
  • Search DMV records.
  • Check police or jail records to see if your spouse is in jail or if they have a recent address.

Carefully document each step of your investigation. A judge will not grant you a divorce if you make a cursory search, so be detailed. Follow up any leads that sound promising.

If you still cannot find your spouse, you must submit a sworn statement (affidavit) to the court explaining your search. The court can then order publication of the notice of your divorce, which must run for several weeks. If your spouse does not respond after the last publication, you can move ahead with a default divorce.

Limitations on Default Divorce

A default divorce cannot decide all the issues that you want. For example, a judge lacks power over a missing spouse and therefore cannot order alimony or child support. The judge cannot also decide issues involving child custody and the division of marital property. However, the judge can divorce you, which might be all that you were really seeking.

Proceeding when a Spouse Disappears in the Middle of the Divorce

You might have managed to file for divorce and served papers on your spouse, only for he or she to go missing in the middle of the divorce proceedings. In this situation, the court will continue to hold hearings and advance the case. Because your spouse initially agreed to the court’s jurisdiction, the court should not be limited in what it can award you. Ultimately, you should receive everything that you have asked for in the divorce since your spouse is no longer around to contest these issues.

Speak with a Winder, Georgia Divorce Lawyer

To better understand what you can and cannot accomplish with a default divorce, please schedule a consultation with a Georgia divorce lawyer at Mitchell & Crunk today. We have experience in divorces involving missing spouses and are eager to help you. Contact us today by calling 770-766-9819 or sending an online message.