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  • Ross & Beckman, PLC.

Can you get a divorced if you cannot locate your spouse?

Some marriages break so badly that the two spouses drift as far apart geographically as they do emotionally. Over time, the other spouse usually decides to seek a divorce, especially if they have a new love interest.

Most learn it is much harder to find a missing or absent spouse than expected. So, what happens if you cannot locate them? You can still end your marriage, but it will probably take a little longer.

Divorce by publication

A divorce requires the filing spouse to serve the other with a copy of the divorce petition and a court summons. If you can’t find the other party, you can’t fulfill that requirement.

You may qualify for a divorce by order of publication if you cannot locate your spouse in Virginia. Your local court will post a notice of the final decree in its main entrance and mail a copy to your spouse’s last known address.

Diligent effort to locate

Of course, you will have to search for your spouse (and fail to locate them) before you can obtain a divorce by publication. Virginia family courts expect plaintiffs to make a diligent effort to find the absent spouse. Unfortunately, there are few hard and fast rules to guide your search, but you might try the following.

  • Hire a private investigator

  • Contact their last known employer

  • Use free and paid Internet search services

  • Reach out to their friends and family members

You will likely benefit from legal guidance when seeking to divorce an absent spouse. Doing so ensures that you fulfill your due diligence requirements, allowing your divorce to proceed smoothly.


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