Unknown Spouse's Whereabouts

Help! I Want A Divorce, But I Don't Know Where My Spouse Is Located!

It's not uncommon for a client to come to me and convey that they have not seen or heard from their spouse in many years and have no idea where their spouse is located. Generally, in order to get a divorce in New York you need to have your spouse personally served with a divorce action. If you do not know your spouse's whereabouts, then you may proceed with what is referred to as a "divorce by publication."

The Search Process

In order to proceed with a divorce by publication, certain requirements must be met. First, a "diligent effort" must be made to "search" for your spouse in the jurisdiction (area) where your spouse was last known to reside. This is referred to as a "skip search." We will contact various agencies, including the U.S. Post Office, Board of Elections, the different branches of the military service, the Department of Motor Vehicles to request whether they know of your spouse's current or last place of residence. Searches also may include using telephone and criss-cross directories and the Internet.

If your spouse is found, then they will be personal served with the divorce papers. If they fail to respond, we will obtain your divorce by default.

What If We Can't Find My Spouse?

If the search fails to locate your spouse, then a motion is made to the court where a divorce action was started for an Order of Publication. The motion sets forth all of the search efforts that were performed so that the court will be satisfied that a "diligent effort" was made to locate your spouse. The court may require additional search efforts.

Once the Order of Publication is signed by a judge, we will then publish a legal notice in a newspaper in the location where your spouse last resided indicating that you are bringing a divorce action against your spouse. The notice is published once a week for three consecutive weeks. After 30 days from the last publication and your spouse does not respond (which is usually the case), I will bring a motion based upon your spouse's failure to answer for a divorce by default judgment.

Don't Give Up — You Still Have Options For Moving Forward

Even if you don't know where your spouse currently is, you still have legal rights to pursue a divorce. I can help you. Contact my office in Staten Island by calling 718-720-1000 to get started. I offer a free initial consultation to all new clients.