Getting divorced when spouse is missing? It is more complicated and stressful when you have lost track of your spouse whether over a number of years or even if they have simply left your former shared home without giving you an indication of where they are. You can get a divorce even when you can’t find your spouse, but there are some additional steps that you must take. The first step in any divorce is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The person seeking the divorce is called the Petitioner. After it is filed, the paperwork must be served to the other spouse, called the Respondent. In some situations, the Petitioner does not know where the spouse is and does not have contact with him or her.

Serve Your Spouse

Your spouse must be served with papers, but what happens when you can’t find him or her? This will certainly make things more complicated. Your attorney is often helpful in putting together an action plan for locating your spouse. Do not be alarmed if you are not able to locate your partner. It is still possible to get a divorce, as long as you go through the proper legal steps. First, attempt to have your spouse served at their last known residential or work address.

Next Steps

If the last known address is no longer valid, your attorney will help take the next steps. A letter or e-mail may be sent to the spouse’s known relatives in an attempt to locate him or her. Given current technology, searches for updated residential or work addresses using common web browsers or on social media should also be attempted. If this fails, the next option is publication. When you don’t know where your spouse is living, you must make an attempt to notify him or her of the pending legal action (dissolution of marriage). This can be done by placing an ad in the newspaper.


When the last known residence of the spouse is located within Arizona, the Summons (a document that is filed along with the Petition for Dissolution) must be posted in the newspaper. It must include the Respondent’s name and all pertinent information regarding the Summons. The ad must appear in the newspaper for a period of four consecutive weeks. An Affidavit must be supplied to the court that shows the dates and other information of the publication. Additionally, actual copies of the publication must be provided. The Affidavit must also include proof that service was attempted at the last known address.

No Response

If, after all possible attempts, there has been no response from the spouse, the divorce may proceed. The court may issue a “Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage”. This is  done after the  mandatory waiting period of 60 days post-service (service here would be the last date of publication). The Court will be limited to granting a “status” divorce – meaning, you will no longer be married to your spouse – but will not be allowed to divide assets or debts when publication is the method of service. Contact a skilled divorce attorney to learn more about divorce when the other spouse’s whereabouts are unknown.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Getting Divorced When Spouse Is Missing?, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Steven H. Everts at 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.