Stallard and Bellof Logo
A young man standing in the middle of a busy street. How to File for Divorce When You Can't Locate Your Spouse
Stallard and Bellof Logo

How to File for Divorce When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse

How to File for Divorce When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse

A young man standing in the middle of a busy street. How to File for Divorce When You Can't Locate Your Spouse

Filing for divorce can already feel like a daunting process, and it becomes even more complex when you don’t know where your spouse is located. Similar to other legal actions, divorce requires that you notify your spouse about the lawsuit, a process formally known as serving them with “Process.” This notification is crucial because it ensures that both parties are aware of the legal proceedings and have an opportunity to respond. Typically, this involves a sheriff or a process server delivering a copy of the divorce complaint and a summons directly to your spouse. But what if you don’t know where your spouse is? Here’s a simplified guide on what you can do, especially if you’re in North Carolina.

The Challenge of Serving Process Without an Address

The requirement to serve Process upholds the legal principle of fairness, ensuring everyone can present their side of the story. However, life’s unpredictable nature can sometimes make finding your spouse to serve these documents impossible. This doesn’t mean you’re stuck or can’t proceed with your divorce; alternative methods exist to overcome this hurdle.

Serving by Publication

In North Carolina, like in some other jurisdictions, there’s a provision for situations exactly like this. If, despite your diligent efforts, you cannot locate your spouse, you can serve them by publication. This method doesn’t require you to know your spouse’s current address but instead uses a public medium to notify them of the divorce action.

How Serving by Publication Works

  • Due Diligence: First, you must demonstrate that you’ve made earnest efforts to find your spouse. This involves checking their last known addresses, contacting relatives, and possibly even using social media or other online tools to track them down.
  • Publishing the Notice: You’ll be directed to publish a notice of the divorce action in a newspaper. This isn’t just any newspaper, though. It must be one that’s likely to be read by your spouse if they’re in the area where they last lived. The notice must run for a specific period, usually set by state laws or court rules.
  • Rule 4 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure outlines the exact steps to follow when serving a defendant by publication. It includes the requirements for the publication, such as how often and in what kind of newspaper the notice should appear.

Moving Forward After Publication

After you’ve followed all the necessary steps for serving by publication, you can proceed with your divorce action as if your spouse were duly served. They will have a specified period to respond to the notice. If there is no response from the defendant, you, as the plaintiff, have several avenues to consider: you may advance to a trial, pursue a summary judgment, or request a divorce directly through the clerk. The choice among these options depends on your county’s specific regulations and circumstances.

How to File for Divorce When You Can't Locate Your Spouse

While the process of serving a spouse by publication might seem cumbersome, it’s a vital legal remedy for those who find themselves unable to locate their spouse but wish to move forward with their lives. Always consult a legal professional to guide you through this process, ensuring you comply with all legal requirements and protect your interests throughout your divorce proceedings.

Picture of Krista Stallard

Krista Stallard

Krista Stallard is an experienced family law attorney specializing in divorce and custody cases, passionate about alternative dispute resolution, and committed to providing excellent legal representation to her clients.

Share Article

Ready to move forward with your life? Discover how you can proceed with your divorce even if you can't locate your spouse. Contact us to learn about serving by publication and take the first step towards a new beginning.

Scroll to Top
Call Now Button