Divorce is known to have a typical path where one spouse requests a divorce, and then proceeds to hire an attorney and file the necessary paperwork to get the process moving. The couple works together to properly handle all property and assets, including finding the necessary arrangements for their children. However, not all couples find themselves in this situation. There are also situations where one spouse finds themselves alone with no explanation as to why their spouse left.

Fortunately in the state of Florida, you are not forced to stay married, even if your spouse disappears. If you want to end your marriage, but have no idea where you spouse is, there is an option to file for divorce via publication.

Getting Started

In order to file a lawsuit properly, every party must be notified and given the right to participate. If your spouse is missing, this obviously isn’t possible. The process of filing for divorce via publication is known as “constructive service”, which means that publishing the notice of your divorce in a newspaper which constitutes service of process.

While it may sound easy to just put an ad in the paper and then show the judge that you cannot find your spouse, the law requires a set of events that must take place prior to this filing that show you made every attempt possible to locate your spouse to file for divorce through traditional routes.

Due Diligence

The court will not permit a divorce simply by publication if you have not proven that you properly tried to search and locate your missing spouse. This may not be an easy process, but will require work on your part to receive a favorable outcome.

First you must show that you properly conducted a search for your missing spouse. Some methods may include:
-contacting friends and relatives about their whereabouts, and following up on any information given.
-reviewing social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn for any clues about their recent activities or new place of residence
-contacting your spouse’s last known employer
-contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles for their last known address
-checking for death certificates in case they are no longer living
-monitoring any banking or credit information that may indicate their location
-search public records of the tax collector
-inquire at hospitals surrounding the area that your spouse was last living
-contact a private investigator to locate your spouse (if the funds are available)

By taking the necessary steps to try to locate your missing spouse, you can show the courts that they have disappeared, and that you have no way to contact them to file for divorce.

Publishing Your Notice

Once you have exhausted these options, you must file an affidavit with the court outlining your process of due diligence. This affidavit is a sworn statement that you made every effort to locate your spouse and that you were unable to do so.

At this time, you can choose a qualified newspaper to run your divorce ad. You must run your ad for 4 consecutive weeks, giving your spouse enough time to respond. If you do not receive a response to this request within 28 days, you can request that the courts grant you the divorce by default and assign you a hearing to finalize the process.

Limitations Regarding Divorce by Publication

While this method of divorce will help you to properly achieve a legal divorce, it does not allow the opportunity to address other issues within the ended relationship. The court does not have jurisdiction to make certain legal decisions the way a traditional divorce does.

For example, if you have children, this will not assist in establishing a time sharing agreement (which will most likely result in your sole custody of the child anyways considering the situation), child support, or alimony. It will also not assist you in dividing marital assets and debts.

If you cannot locate your spouse and believe that filing for divorce by publication is the best course of action, Seff & Capizzi Law Group can assist you. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.

If you think that divorce by publication is an option you would like to pursue, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.