What if you want to get divorced but no longer know where your spouse lives? Sometimes couples separate for many years or someone leaves without notice, leaving you unable to serve them a copy of the divorce filing and Summons as required by law.
Good news: As long as you are a Missouri resident, you can still get divorced even if you don’t know how to find your spouse. Here’s how:
- The applicable rule is Missouri Court Rule 54.12(c).
- Request permission from the court to publish a notice of the divorce in a newspaper or post a notice in the courthouse. This is called a Motion to Serve by Publication or Posting.
- The Judge can allow publication or posting if the Judge decides that you have made sufficient efforts to find your spouse and your spouse cannot be found.
- Sign an affidavit (written document under oath) stating the efforts you made to locate your spouse. The affidavit must list the reasons why the other spouse cannot be located and the efforts you made to locate them. This is called an Affidavit of Diligent Search.
Here are some suggestions about what to include in your Affidavit and steps to take to show “sufficient efforts”:
- List the last time you saw your spouse and where.
- Send copies of your divorce filing by certified mail, return receipt, to your spouse’s last known address.
- It is also a good idea to send the papers by regular mail.
- Save the mail when it is returned to you and attach copies of the envelopes marked “undeliverable”.
- Check your spouse’s last known address in person, if possible–if you have no safety concerns doing so.
- Contact your spouse’s last known job, if any.
The notice of the divorce must be published in a local legal publication (i.e. Missouri Lawyers Weekly) or newspaper for a period of four consecutive weeks. The missing spouse has 45 days to respond from the date of the publication. If no response is filed by the missing spouse, then they are deemed to be served, and a default divorce proceeding can then occur.
It is very important to understand that the only thing the court can do is dissolve the marriage. In cases where there are children in common with the missing spouse, the Court can award custody if jurisdiction over the children is proper. The court cannot divide property, award spousal support, child support, attorney fees, or any other money judgment.
For more information, visit https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=3478.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.