Divorce Issues: Unreachable Spouse

Going through a divorce is a difficult emotional experience and you will have many issues to deal with, such as dividing property and finding an experienced divorce attorney. One issue that can happen unexpectedly is not being able to locate your spouse. This article examines how to proceed under these circumstances.


A significant problem regarding a spouse whose location is not known involves serving the divorce papers. When you file for divorce, you are legally required to serve your spouse with documents that let them know the filing has occurred. So what do you do if your spouse cannot be found? You will need to make reasonable efforts to find them, such as contacting your spouse's friends and relatives to ask if they know where your spouse has gone. If your spouse is employed, you can ask to talk with their employer or visit their workplace.

You may also need to search various databases, such as criminal records, and, if your spouse has served in the armed forces, military records. You do not necessarily have to do all of this on your own. A good divorce lawyer will be able to help you with finding a spouse whose location is unknown.

Alternative Service

If you are still not able to find your spouse after making a good-faith effort, you will need to petition the presiding judge to let you use an alternative method of serving your spouse with the relevant documents. The judge will then grant an order outlining how you are to perform this alternative service. The most common method of alternative service is the publication of a notice in a newspaper for a length of time established in the judge's order. Other methods used by some courts include placing a notice on social media or on the court's website.


Even if you are ultimately unable to find your spouse, you can still dissolve the marriage through a process known as a default divorce. The default divorce rules and procedures depend on the relevant statutes of the state in which you have filed. One advantage of getting a default divorce is that you will probably not have to disclose important financial information that you would need to make public if your spouse was present and contesting the divorce. In some states, you might be required, after a default divorce is granted, to try and contact your spouse again to inform them of the dissolution of the marriage. Another public notice in a newspaper might satisfy this requirement.

For more information, contact a divorce lawyer near you.