Although divorce is undoubtedly painful, many separations follow common patterns. Typically, one spouse will initiate filing for divorce, after which both parties will find a divorce lawyer to help them navigate the process. There may be some predictors that can indicate how likely a couple is to divorce — for instance, couples who date for at least three years prior to becoming engaged are 39% less likely to divorce than a couple who dates for less than a year prior to their engagement — but some spouses never get any warning at all. Unfortunately, one partner may simply decide to walk out, without looking back or telling their spouse where they might be. In these cases, the cost of divorce lawyers may not be your biggest concern; instead, it may be whether you’re able to obtain a divorce at all.
There is good news, though. While it may not be easy to be granted a divorce when your spouse doesn’t want to be found, it can be done. You’ll likely need divorce help for these kinds of situations, in particular. Every case will be a bit different, but there are some basic steps you’ll need to follow when you want to file divorce papers to separate from an absent spouse.
After you have filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you have to conduct a search for your spouse. This search must be extremely thorough. You’ll likely start with their last known address (contact your post office and DMV if you don’t know it) before moving on to contacting your spouse’s relatives, employers, and local police departments. Internet and social media searches are also necessary in this day and age. You will also have to check to see whether your spouse might have a death certificate filed.
If you still are not able to locate them, you’ll need to fill out and file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry. This sworn statement, which outlines all you’ve done to locate your missing spouse, will give you permission to serve your spouse by publication, which is known in Florida as constructive service. Basically, this means you’ll publish a notice of your intent to divorce in a newspaper (one that’s deemed to be ‘qualified’ by the Florida courts) once a week for four weeks in a row.
Your spouse would be required to file a response to this published petition within 20 days of the last posting. Even if your spouse never sees the local newspaper, the fact that you’ve published this notice still follows the proper process. If your spouse does not respond, you can ask the courts to grant you a divorce by default. While this will sever your marriage, there are some drawbacks, extending beyond the cost of divorce lawyers in general, to filing for divorce in this manner. For example, a court won’t be able to divide assets and debts or grant parental responsibility and support payments if you share children. Ultimately, issues like this cannot be resolved until or unless your spouse can be located. If these issues are pertinent to your situation, you may want to consider factoring in a private investigator’s fees in addition to the cost of divorce lawyers for your case.
Under any circumstances, the cost of divorce lawyers may be a chief concern. But when your spouse cannot be located, you may have other worries on your mind. Still, you shouldn’t have to bear an undue financial burden during this difficult time. That’s why we’re here to help. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact the Affordable Divorce Center today.