Law

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

file divorce in florida

Normally, to start any legal trial in Florida, including marriage dissolution, one party must file the petition. Then, the sheriff or the process server will inform the other spouse of the divorce case and serve the papers. But how to file for divorce in Florida without a spouse? What should you do if the whereabouts of the receiving party are unknown, he/she can’t be tracked, and the papers can be served to nowhere at best? Does it mean that you can’t be divorced until you find the missing spouse? Or can you get a divorce without your spouse’s signature?

Although the process is complicated, and there are certain limitations, you can. Under Florida Law, there is an alternative legal procedure to serve the party who can’t be located. More about it in the article.

How to File For Divorce in Florida without a Spouse

A typical divorce case starts with the Petition of Divorce. Whether you file divorce online or submit the papers on the premises of the court, the other party must be served the divorce papers in person. However, if the spouse’s whereabouts are unknown and the in-person serving is impossible, the court can grant a divorce by publication in Florida.

What is a Divorce by Publication?

In Florida State, when the other party can’t be located and served, divorce can be granted by publication. It is an alternative divorce procedure, according to which the court will order publishing the Notice of Divorce in a reputable newspaper that specializes in classified legal announcements once a week for the next 28 days.

If the absent spouse doesn’t respond during this period, the petitioner will be divorced by default. However, the court will not be able to grant any decision as to child custody and support, property division, or distribution of debts.

From the beginning till the end, the divorce by publication procedure may take over 3 months, and the cost will depend on the fees of the selected newspaper.

How to Qualify for the Divorce by Publication?

When one spouse wants a divorce in Florida but the location of the other party is unknown, divorce by publication takes the stage. However, it is not enough to say, “I can’t find my spouse. Please, divorce us”. There is a list of requirements to meet before you can qualify for this type.

First, the petitioner must convince a judge that he/she went above and beyond and showed “due diligence” to track the respondent. But how do you know what due diligence is?

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida, there are nearly two dozen steps that you should take before you can say that you “searched very thoroughly”. They include:

  • Contacting US Postmaster in the cities where the Respondent might have lived or worked to obtain his/her address.
  • Checking phone directories in the cities or towns where the Respondent might have resided.
  • Searching public tax records and traffic records.
  • Asking possible previous or current neighbors of the Respondent’s whereabouts.
  • Contacting utility companies.
  • Contacting last known employer.
  • Talking to all known friends and relatives to retrieve information that might lead to the Respondent’s location.
  • Inquiring law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and private investigators.
  • Using stipulated people finders and directories on the internet, such as databaseamerica.com.
  • Contacting Armed Forces as to whether they know anything about the party’s whereabouts.
  • Confirming whether or not the Respondent is still alive; if not, retrieving information about the location and time of his death.

Only after all these requirements are met, and the spouse couldn’t retrieve any information of the whereabouts of the missing party, he/she should submit the Affidavit of Diligent Search to the Court. In the Affidavit, he/she should provide a detailed outline of the actions taken to track the absent party and in doing so, prove that the missing spouse can’t truly be found.

Once the judge is convinced that the Petitioner has done everything possible and the location of the other spouse is still unknown, the divorce by publication procedure will come into force.

Summary

A Petitioner can get a divorce in Florida when the spouse is out of state and his/her location is unknown through a divorce by publication procedure. As an alternative to a typical divorce process, this procedure has a number of requirements to be met before it can come into force. Particularly, the Petitioner must prove to a judge that he/she bent every effort to locate the absent party and submit a sworn declaration with a detailed description of the actions taken. Based on its name, the divorce by default will be granted after the notice of divorce was being published for four weeks and no answer from the Respondent followed. A divorce by publication, however, will not provide any decision as to alimony, property rights, distribution of debts, and other issues that require the other party’s presence.

Tirupati Gumpula

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