You can still get a divorce in Texas even if you are unable to locate your spouse. You must have made reasonable efforts to do so, however, but when your spouse is intentionally avoiding the divorce process or simply can’t be found, you can proceed without them.
Divorce can be a difficult enough process on its own to endure – even if one is uncontested and spouses agree on the most important issues. Things can become more challenging with a contested divorce, which involves specific allegations or difficult issues to resolve. As challenging as these types of divorces may be, they are unlike the challenges of dealing with a divorce when someone may be intentionally avoiding the divorce.
How Can I Get a Divorce Without My Spouse?
You can pursue a divorce without your spouse if you meet Texas’s state residency requirements. If you have, then you have lived in Texas for at least six months before filing for divorce and have been a resident for the past three months in the county in which you’re filing for divorce.
Consult with a Divorce Lawyer
Before doing anything, consult with a divorce attorney and retain the services of one who you trust. This professional will be your guide through this complicated legal process and can help you protect your rights throughout it.
Serve Your Spouse Divorce Papers
Your attorney can advise you on how to serve divorce papers, which is typically done by the county sheriff or a court-certified process server. It’s important to not try to give your spouse the divorce papers on your own. Doing so could result in an improper service of process, and you’ll have to start over from the beginning.
There are other rules about service of process that even professionals must follow. For example, they can’t simply drop off divorce papers in someone’s mailbox or show up at their work without giving the respondent’s employer a heads up. This is why you’re better off relying on their services to ensure this aspect of your divorce clears the hurdle.
Also, keep in mind that service of process is a formal notification to your spouse of your intention to divorce and what their legal obligations are from that point forward. If you are unable to locate your spouse, they may have been aware of your desire to divorce and have made themselves go missing to avoid the process.
Service by Publication
If you demonstrated due diligence to locate your spouse and fail, you may serve your spouse by publication. This is a situation in which you’ve made all reasonable attempts to locate your spouse and have documentation to back up your claim that you can’t find your spouse despite your efforts.
If the judge assigned to your case is satisfied, they can issue an order that allows you to attempt service by publication. This often means printing a notice in a newspaper or another publication in circulation in an attempt to passively notify your spouse of your intent to divorce.
Finalizing a Divorce with a Missing Spouse
If you don’t have children with your spouse, they have 60 days to respond to the service by publication or the judge will issue a default judgment to divorce property. At this point, the marriage is finalized, and you are free to live without a legal or financial relationship to your spouse.
If you do have children with your spouse, the court will require you to put in an even greater amount of effort to locate your spouse. If your spouse is still missing after service by publication, however, the judge may finalize your divorce and assign child custody to you.
Due to the circumstances of your divorce, however, it may be impossible to assign meaningful child support or alimony orders.
Your Advocate for Divorce
Kay Polk, Attorney at Law has the experience and knowledge necessary to help you get through your divorce. These difficult times can present many challenges, including situations in which your spouse may be missing or intentionally avoiding the divorce.
If you want to move forward, we can help. Contact Kay Polk, Attorney at Law online now to learn more.