How to Divorce a Spouse Who is Nowhere to Be Found
Earlier this year, a New York judge held that Facebook was an acceptable way for a Brooklyn woman to serve divorce papers on her estranged husband. While this medium that was used may be innovative, the method of divorce by publication is not. In fact, Florida has specific rules when it comes to divorcing a missing spouse through publication.
When a Spouse Cannot be Found
Florida law allows for divorce by publication when one spouse wants to separate but the other is missing or hiding. Such notice is only allowed after a judge has been “convinced, based on sworn declaration, of the serving party’s inability to find the [spouse] after trying hard”. Generally, this method of notice is used when a spouse has not left a forwarding address. Service by publication is allowed after a “diligent search” has occurred. For these reasons, it’s important to retain an experienced Orlando divorce lawyer.
Florida’s Search Requirements
Well established state law requires a “good faith effort” by the person requesting the divorce by publication that he or she has made a genuine search. Below are a list of some actions a court may deem reasonable before a petitioner submits the required sworn statement:
- Searching phone directories of cities and towns of spouse’s possible residencies;
- Contacting the spouse’s last known employer;
- Reaching out to law enforcement agencies from the last known residential area;
- Searching public records, such as the tax collector and assessor;
- Asking the postmaster in the cities of the spouse’s prior residencies of all forwarding addresses, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); and
- Hiring a private investigator.
If the spouse has never lived in Florida, the court may require that the requestor publish the notice in the town of the spouse’s last known residence in addition to publication within Florida.
Filing for Divorce by Publication
If a diligent search turns up fruitless, the person seeking a divorce must file an affidavit. This is a notarized statement describing the diligent search efforts used to find the spouse. At the same time, the person seeking a divorce must prepare a notice of dissolution of marriage for publication. Once the court approves the affidavit, the notice must be published once a week for four weeks in a publication that specializes in publishing classified legal advertisements.
If the missing spouse does not respond to the publication within 28 days, the spouse seeking the divorce files a notice of default with the court, which allows the divorce to proceed. When a divorce is granted this way, however, the court will not make any decisions on other related issues such as division of property, child support, and child custody.
Orlando Divorce Lawyer
The decision to go through a divorce can be a difficult one. Issues to consider include property distribution, spousal support, and time-sharing. Because competence and detail is key, contacting divorce lawyers in Orlando prior to making any decisions is vital. The attorneys at Steve W. Marsee, P.A. serves families throughout central Florida and have years of family law experience. Call today (407) 521-7171 to schedule your initial consultation.