Playing the “Where’s Waldo?” Game: How to Divorce Your Spouse When They Disappear

Divorce presents many obstacles such as possible contentious litigation, the uncertainty of child custody and support, and potentially high legal costs. However, in rare cases, a spouse makes divorce really hard by simply…disappearing. On top of everything else, you have to add a “Where’s Waldo?” game to your list of divorce “to-dos.” And unlike “Where’s Waldo?” finding your spouse isn’t as much fun.

So, can’t find your spouse? There are four easy steps you can take to still get your divorce (although know that each step can take a long period of time).

  • Request more time to make additional efforts at finding your spouse. If you’ve had literally zero communication and no luck finding your spouse, then you can request more time from the judge in order to make more serious efforts at locating your spouse. Unfortunately, the detective work falls on you—and this is when a divorce attorney can help out a lot. You’ll want to uncover all possible leads including:
    • Where your spouse works or last worked
    • Your spouse’s family members
    • Any public records (like Internet or Yellow Pages listings)
    • Any social media accounts such as actively used Facebook and Twitter profiles—which has recently become a more common way to serve a complaint to a missing spouse
    • Any criminal records (courts, jail, etc.)

Your attorney may also help you with more detailed detective work such as inquiring among hospitals, the Georgia DMV, military records, and even homeless shelters.

  • Present your evidence to the judge and receive an “order of publication.” So, the judge agrees that you’ve made a best effort at locating your spouse. What’s an “order of publication”? Yes, we’re talking about an old-fashioned, all but useless, yet last legal resort to make sure you’ve tried every way to contact your spouse. An “order of publication” means you will place a notice about your divorce in a local newspaper (or newspapers) for four weeks. It’s unlikely your spouse will suddenly pick up a newspaper and realize you’re trying to divorce him or her, but it’s a legal way to cover your bases and make sure you’ve done everything possible to let your spouse know—wherever he or she may be.
  • File for a divorce by default. At this point, you can easily request the court grant a no-fault divorce. While obviously you cannot make a disappeared person pay alimony or child support, you can certainly take actions related to child custody, property in Georgia and receive a divorce.

It’s time consuming, but filing for divorce becomes easy as long as you diligently try to track down your missing spouse. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side during this process will ensure that you follow all the legal rules and leave no stone unturned. If you have more questions about locating and/or serving your spouse divorce papers, contact us for your consultation.