The Missing Spouse and How It affects your Divorce

I found the following post on the blog, and it caught my attention because I have many cases where missing spouse/parent is in issue. The post appears below, with a few comments following.

We hear from many spouses who are trying to get a divorce, but they do not no the whereabouts of their spouse. This is a common situation, especially if you have been separated for quite some time. The process for divorcing a missing spouse is somewhat more complicated and lengthy do to extra procedures one must follow. This type of divorce is commonly referred to as a “Divorce by Publication”.

A “Divorce by Publication” requires a spouse to prove to the court that he or she has made a legitimate attempt to local his or her husband or wife. In order to fulfill the requirements of the court a public legal notice announcing the filing of the divorce must be placed in the newspaper for a specified period of time (typically 30 days).

We suggest going through the following steps to try to locate your spouse. Who knows you may already be divorced.

1. Contact Friends and Family.
2. Call Information.
3. Contact Past Employers.
4. Do a Search Report at

If you do find your spouse, you can have him or her professionally served with your divorce paperwork. This will almost always speed up the process. What ever you do, do not intentionally avoid finding your spouse.

Believe it or not, this is not uncommon at all, regardless of the type of case. The above is great advice, but in Missouri, it is not just as easy as just publishing notice and calling it a day. Although service by publication is available in Missouri, a court can not do anything other than dissolve the marriage. The court cannot divide marital property, set up custody or visitation, or award child support. This means that in order to proceed in most cases, there must be personal service, and you must find the spouse/other party to obtain it. I have had, and currently have, cases where people have spent thousands of dollars on investigators, process servers, searches, skip traces, etc. to try to find a missing spouse or parent. This can add a significant amount of time and cost to your case, and if children are involved, can even negatively affect the entire outcome of the case. For example, the court could lose jurisdiction over the children if the case is on file and too much time passes while trying to track down a spouse. This creates a tremendous strategic disadvantage.

The lesson of the day here is that, particularly if kids are involved, the whereabouts of the other spouse (and kids) should be known at all times. The above points are great starts for trying to locate them, but it should never come to that. Time, money, family, and future are all at stake to be lost. However, If it is just a case where spouses have been separated for a long period of time and there are no kids, service by publication will usually suffice.