Divorce gets complicated and stressful in relatively short order. There’s a lot to consider. Collaborative divorce, mediation, a do-it-yourself approach. These elements all add unexpected wrinkles. But what if you can’t find your spouse?
Can you still divorce if you don’t know where your spouse lives? How do you end a marriage if you can’t find your soon-to-be-ex?
Luckily, you do have options.
Fortunately, Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means the government can’t and won’t force you to remain married. It requires a few additional steps, but it is possible.
Can You Get A Divorce If You Don’t Kow Where Your Spouse Is?
Yes, though this makes things trickier. Fortunately, you can proceed with a divorce if your spouse is MIA.
In Washington, you need to initiate a case with the courts. This is the first step no matter the situation. It’s the next step where things become more complex.
Once you file the initial divorce paperwork, you must serve the other party. It’s easy to see how you might have trouble with this if you can’t find your spouse.
Still, you must try.
You need to do your due diligence in attempting to locate your spouse. Put in the leg work and make an earnest, good-faith effort. Once you exhaust all possible avenues, then the case can move on.
It’s important here to document your efforts. You need to prove to the court that you tried.
Collect evidence that you put in the time and effort. If you hire a private investigator, keep records. Check their last known residence and last known employers. If you request DMV records, save them. Keep track of all your moves.
Related Reading: How Do I File For Divorce In Washington?
Motion to Serve by Publication
After exhausting all possible ways to find your spouse, and documenting your quest, then the time comes to move forward.
If you can’t locate the other party, you file a “motion to serve by publication.”
Before you submit this, however, the court must approve this measure. Hence, why you need to show that there are no other options.
Once the court gives you the go-ahead, you then place a public notice of your intention in an acceptable outlet.
This usually means a local newspaper or one where your spouse was last known to live. Most publications like this have a section dedicated to legal notices of this sort.
Once you publish this notice, if you still receive no response after the allotted time, you move on by filing a “motion for default.”
Related Reading: Jurisdiction: Where You File For Divorce Matters
Motion For Default
When you can’t find your spouse, filing a motion for default is the next step.
After you’ve shown that your spouse is nowhere to be found, and that you put in the effort to find them, this asks the court to grant you your divorce.
If the court approves this measure, it essentially means they grant all your requests. You generally receive everything you asked for in the original divorce petition because no one showed up to oppose it.
Even though this sounds fairly straightforward, you still may want to consult a divorce attorney. They’ll guide you through the process and make sure you check off all the right boxes.
You don’t want to put in a ton of effort only to have a judge deny your motions.
Or worse, you don’t want to do a half-hearted search and have your spouse show up at the last minute to derail your plans.
Like most things in divorce, if you’re going to do it, do it right the first time. The effects of ending a marriage last for years, if not longer. This isn’t the time for haphazard shortcuts.
Related Reading: My Ex Won’t Follow The Divorce Agreement