Separated, Want to Divorce, But Don’t Know Where Your Spouse Is?
Starting divorce proceedings can be rather simple. You retain a Family Law Attorney who files your divorce papers. Your lawyer then hires a process server to serve your divorce papers by hand-delivery to your spouse. Once served, your spouse is considered “on notice” of the divorce and it’s only a matter of time before the Court will grant your dissolution of marriage.
But what happens when you don’t know where you spouse is? Do you have the ability to get a divorce in Florida? Of course you do.
Take Tina, for example. Tina married Tim, an artist, a few years ago in Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately, their marriage fell apart after 2 years and Tim said he was moving out. Tim packed up his belongings and art supplies, put them in his car, and left. Tina hasn’t heard from Tim in a year and she has no idea if he lives in Florida or not. Tina even tried to find out if he was selling his art at any shows in Florida but had no luck. Tina is now engaged to a new man and she wants to marry him this year.
Tina needs a divorce, ASAP.
While it may not be the simplest process, Florida Family Law allows Tina to go forward with a divorce by serving Tim and putting him “on notice” through the process of constructive service. Here’s how it works.
First, Tina must file for divorce just like anyone else would in Florida.
Second, Tina must file an Affidavit swearing and affirming that she does not know Tim’s residence, that she has tried to search for Tim, and she has been unable to find any address to serve Tim with the divorce papers.
Third, the Family Law Court must then enter an Order determining that Tina has tried to find Tim, or his residence, or any address to serve him. So long as the Family Law Court finds that Tina has diligently searched for Tim and come up short, Tina will be allowed to move forward with her divorce by “constructive service” upon Tim.
So, what is constructive service? It is when the Florida Family Clerk of Court publishes a notice of your divorce action in one of several manners depending on the County in which you file your divorce. If you file for divorce in a county with a local newspaper, the Florida Family Clerk of Court will publish the notice of your divorce action in the local newspaper once every week for four weeks. If there is no local newspaper in the County in which you file for divorce, then the Florida Family Clerk of Court will place the notice of your divorce action in several locations around the courthouse including the door of the county courthouse for 30 days.
Now back to Tina. After the Florida Family Clerk of Court publishes her notice of divorce action for the required period and assuming Tim does not come forward, the Court will set a final hearing granting Tina’s divorce and she will be ready to wed again in no time.
For more information on how you can go forward with a divorce if you cannot find your spouse, please feel free to: contact Lindsay B. Haber, Esq.
Lindsay B. Haber, Esq. is a partner in the family law division of Kluger Kaplan. Ms. Haber has worked as a family law attorney for nearly nine years and has experience in high-profile, high-conflict family law matters, such as complex and high value property, business and financial distributions as well as acrimonious child-related matters including international kidnapping and parenting conflicts.