Can I get a divorce if I do not know where my spouse is?

A divorce is civil lawsuit that ends a marriage. When a spouse files for divorce, they must follow the rules of the court and civil procedure of the state where they file. The divorce lawsuit begins when the petitioner, person who is seeking a divorce, files. Once the court clerk files the complaint, the plaintiff spouse must serve the defendant spouse, or give them notice that they filed for divorce. The other spouse can receive service and notice of the divorce filing by someone other than the filing spouse. This can be done in-person or by mail. However, if the spouse filing for divorce does not know where their spouse is, they cannot serve them properly. Failure to properly serve the defendant can end the lawsuit. Even if the defendant spouse finds out about the lawsuit, if they are not properly served, the court may dismiss the divorce lawsuit.

Even if the spouse filing for divorce does not know where their spouse is, they can still file. The spouse must make a diligent effort to locate the other spouse. If the spouse is still not found, the filing spouse may serve the other spouse by publication. Using this method, the plaintiff spouse my place the Summons in the local newspaper. In Washington, the publication must appear in the local newspaper once a week for six consecutive weeks. Under Oregon law, you must have the court’s permission before you can serve the other spouse by publication. The Summons must appear in the newspaper once a week for four weeks. In both states, if the other spouse does not respond to the Summons by legal time frame, the spouse seeking a divorce wins their divorce by default. The divorce is then final, and the defendant spouse may not be able to contest.

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