You can still get a divorce if your spouse is missing, but there must be an effort to locate them. Reasonable efforts to locate a missing spouse that fail could indicate the spouse is attempting to avoid the divorce process. Rest assured that even under such circumstances, you can successfully end your marriage and move on with your life.
Filing for Divorce Alone in Florida
The courts in Florida allow people to file for divorce alone. This means that if your spouse has disappeared and you suspect they are refusing to cooperate with the process, you can still petition the court for a divorce.
Generally speaking, you may file for divorce alone when:
- Your spouse refuses to sign any divorce-related documents
- Your spouse is attempting to hide from you or process servers
- Your spouse’s location is unknown despite good faith and reasonable efforts to locate them.
When these factors are relevant to your situation, you can work with a divorce attorney to file for divorce on your own.
Requirements for Serving Divorce Papers
When either spouse seeks a divorce, the other must be given service of process. This refers to the delivery of court documents formally notifying the spouse of the other’s divorce filing, along with a court date for the first hearing.
Process of service is often executed by professional process servers, who are experts in locating individuals subject to lawsuits and delivering court documents to them. Process servers often anticipate people avoiding service of process, so they employ various research skills and techniques to locate and serve them.
A few requirements for serving divorce papers include the following:
- Petitioners can’t serve divorce papers – only those who are authorized to conduct service of process, including the sheriff in the county where a spouse can be located and certified process servers.
- Divorce papers must be personally delivered to the respondent.
- Copies of divorce papers can be left at the respondent’s house.
- Divorce papers can’t be left in a mailbox unless the respondent is evading service.
- Process servers must contact the respondent’s employer to inform them of the service of process before coming to the respondent’s place of work.
- Service of process can’t occur on Sunday.
- Service of process must comply with the specific state and local requirements in which it’s conducted.
What If a Process Server Can’t Find the Respondent?
If a process server can’t find your spouse, they must have exercised due diligence to do so before you can move forward. In other words, you can’t simply tell the court that your spouse is missing or evading the divorce after one attempt. All reasonable theories about where your spouse is should be explored and earnestly acted upon to conduct service of process.
What Is Citation by Publication?
Citation by publication may be the only way to proceed with a divorce when your spouse is missing or evading the divorce process. Citation by publication requires you to notify your spouse of the pending divorce in a newspaper, but proceeding under these circumstances won’t conclude as divorces typically do.
If you proceed with your divorce and your spouse is absent from the process, issues such as alimony, child support, division of marital property, and child custody won’t be resolved. A temporary order for child custody may go into effect, but this and all other unresolved matters must be revisited if your spouse eventually turns up.
Contact a Lawyer for Help
If you wish to file for divorce alone because your spouse is missing or attempting to evade the divorce process, you can get the help you need from Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. Our experienced divorce attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you overcome inconvenient obstacles to your attempt to move on with your life.
Call (727) 245-9009 or contact Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. online now to get started.