I Can’t Find My Spouse. Can I Still Get a Divorce?
In most divorces, both parties participate in the case. They may not agree on all the issues, but they are both part of the divorce process.
In some situations, however, one spouse has moved on with his or her life long before the divorce process gets underway. For some people, moving on with their life means literally moving away.
This can be problematic, as Florida law requires the spouse filing the dissolution of marriage to notify the other spouse of the divorce. But what happens when the filing spouse has no idea where to find the other person?
Fortunately, the law also provides options for people with an absentee spouse. If you are considering a dissolution of marriage in Florida, speak to a Tampa divorce lawyer.
Service Requirements in Florida
Under Florida law, a defendant to a lawsuit must be notified of the lawsuit. In most cases, this “service of process” is carried out by the county sheriff or a private process server.
To serve a defendant with a copy of the pleadings and other required paperwork, however, you need to know their address. In some cases, an estranged spouse has moved to another state or perhaps another country altogether.
Although the internet has made it difficult to live anonymously, people who truly don’t want to be found can still find a way to do so.
Constructive Service of Process
There are many reasons why someone with an estranged spouse may wish to formally end the marriage. In some cases, one spouse wants to remarry.
In other cases, the person who wants to end the marriage simply wishes to move on. Whatever the reason, no one should be forced to remain in a marriage simply because the other person has seemingly disappeared.
In these cases, an individual who wishes to divorce but can’t locate his or her spouse must resort to service by way of “constructive service of process”.
Instead of serving the defendant spouse by way of sheriff or process server, the filing spouse must publish notice of the dissolution of marriage in a local newspaper one time a week for four weeks.
The court must approve the plaintiff’s choice of publication, and the newspaper must be published in the county where the court is located.
If you want to use service by publication, it’s not enough to simply tell the court you can’t locate your spouse. Instead, you must make a real attempt to find your spouse by conducting a thorough and diligent search.
After you have completed your search, you must file an affidavit with the court explaining all the steps you took to complete your search. If the court is satisfied with your explanation of the search, only then will it allow you to use service by publication.
Service by publication allows your divorce to go forward, but it is not without potential drawbacks. For example, the court may not address certain issues without your spouse present.
For example, it’s unlikely the court will decide issues regarding property division, alimony, or child support.
Service of Process Through Social Media?
Social media has changed the way people communicate. In some situations, it has even changed the way people divorce. In 2015, a judge in Manhattan allowed a woman to serve her husband with notice of a divorce over Facebook’s instant messaging system.
In that case, the husband abandoned the wife without leaving a forwarding address. He also had no DMV records, nor did he have a known employer. What he did have, however, was a Facebook account, which he used to communicate with his estranged wife.
The judge permitted the wife to transmit notice of the divorce once a week for three consecutive weeks. The judge also ordered the wife and her attorney to call and text the husband to notify him of the divorce.
The Manhattan case is the first of its kind in the U.S., but it might not stay that way for long. Considering how many people use Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms, judges in other states may begin permitting service of process by way of social media.
Get in Touch with a Tampa Divorce Lawyer
The decision to divorce is never easy. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you approach your case with confidence and peace of mind. Contact us today to schedule a consultation about your case.