To file for divorce, the plaintiff spouse must file a petition against the defendant spouse. The plaintiff spouse must also give the defendant spouse “service of notice,” which is notice of the case filing. To achieve this, the attorney of the plaintiff, or a neutral third party, will hand deliver or mail a copy of the petition and summons to appear in court to the defendant spouse.
This process is fairly simple and fast – unless the plaintiff spouse is unable to locate the defendant spouse.
Courts Require Plaintiff Spouse to Make a “Diligent Effort”
When a plaintiff spouse is unable to locate the defendant spouse, the plaintiff must search for the defendant in the county and state where the defendant spouse was last known to live. The search must be documented.
“Diligent efforts” may include contacting the following:
- Post office
- Board of elections
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Child Support Enforcement Agency
- Last place of employment
- Friends and relatives
There are also services who will use this information to run a skip trace of the Defendant in an attempt to find their location.
Courts Typically Allow Service by Publication for a Missing Spouse
After the plaintiff has exhausted all other options to serve the defendant, the courts usually allow the plaintiff spouse to complete service by publication and/or posting at the courthouse. Sometimes the defendant may have moved without leaving a forwarding address. Other times, the couple may have lost contact because so much time has passed since they lived together.
Under these circumstances, the plaintiff will give “constructive notice,” by notifying the defendant by publishing a notice in a court-approved newspaper or other publication. Even though the defendant did not physically receive the notice, this will fulfill the notice requirement, and allow the lawsuit to start.
Legal Notice Must be Published for at Least 30 Days
Once the judge signs the Order of Publication, the plaintiff spouse must publish a legal notice in a newspaper, stating intent to divorce missing spouse. The Order will specify which newspaper to publish the notice in, and when to publish the notice.
The notice must be published three times, typically one notice per week for three weeks. This is legally equivalent to “service of notice” with a “summons” for missing spouse cases.
Plaintiff Can File for Divorce “By Default”
In the event the defendant spouse does not respond, the plaintiff can then move forward with filing the divorce. This divorce will be filed “by default.” “By default” means the missing spouse failed to respond to the “service of notice,” despite the “diligent efforts” of the plaintiff. The defendant “defaulted,” therefore the divorce will be granted.
Towson Divorce Lawyers of Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC Help You Move Forward with Your Divorce
Regardless of your circumstances, we work to keep the process moving forward without placing undue stress on you. Our lawyers know how to fight for your interests in the courtroom, with a firm grasp of the issues that are most important to you. If you have a missing spouse and need assistance filing a divorce by default, contact the Towson Divorce Lawyers of Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC for help.
To schedule your free consultation today, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online.With offices conveniently located in Towson and Hunt Valley our lawyers are ready to assist families throughout Maryland, including the communities of Cockeysville, Lutherville Timonium, Upper Falls, Phoenix, Riderwood, Sparks Glencoe, Brooklandville, Butler, Stevenson, Glyndon, Monkton, Baltimore County, Reisterstown, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Parkville, Boring, Glen Arm, Baldwin, Upperco, and Hyde.