I Want to Get Divorced But I Can’t Find my Spouse! (Part 1)

Man looking at a giant globe
It’s hard to file divorce papers when you and your spouse are estranged, and you don’t know how to find them.

That probably seems like a strange headline to some of you. After all, a spouse isn’t something you misplace, so how on earth could someone not know where their husband or wife is when they decide they’re ready to officially sever ties? Well, it may surprise you, but there are many instances where married couples here in Oakland County part ways without formalizing a divorce, and simply create new independent lives away from each other. Sometimes this lasts for years and sometimes, even for decades according to the divorce attorneys at The Kronzek Firm.

As the years pass, they move on, get new jobs, buy new homes, and lose track of each other. The fact that they have no contact with each other doesn’t bother them – it’s what they want. But when the time comes, and perhaps one of the spouses decides to remarry, the fact that they never actually got divorced becomes an issue. They are then forced to hunt down their spouse, and formalize what’s already been a reality for years.

I want to serve divorce papers to my spouse, but I can’t find them!

If you’ve decided you want to get divorced, but you and your spouse no longer maintain contact, serving them divorce papers can seem like an impossible task. How do you find them? Where do you start looking? What if they moved away – out of state – and you can’t find them? Does that mean you can’t get divorced?

These are all valid questions, but before we try to answer them, let’s cover some very important ground first. It’s important that you know that after your family law attorney files for divorce, you will be expected to make a good faith effort to find them. Our Michigan law describes as a “diligent effort.”

What does a ‘diligent effort’ involve?

According to the divorce lawyers in the Oakland County office of The Kronzek Firm, in MIchigan, a diligent effort means making a thorough effort to find your spouse, using every available resource. The following is a list of what the family court in Oakland County is likely to expect from you:

  • Search the phonebook and directory assistance in the area where they live;
  • Search the phonebook and directory assistance in the area where they were last known to have lived;
  • Ask friends and relatives who may know where your spouse is;
  • Check the post office where they last lived, for information about a forwarding address;
  • Check tax and property assessor records to see if they own property;
  • Contact the Michigan Secretary of State for auto registrations in their name;
  • Contact any landlords and prior employers that you know about;
  • Check with the Secretary of State;
  • Check Google;
  • Check the last known employer;

Currently the law doesn’t mention using the internet as a resource (these laws were written before social media was a phenomenon) but your lawyer is likely to do just that. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are goldmines of information when it comes to finding people you’ve lost track of.

How will the court know I’ve done my best to find my spouse?

Under Michigan law, if you want to proceed with your divorce even though you couldn’t find your spouse, you need to prove that you made a diligent effort to find them. So how do you prove that? Simple. You fill out and submit to the court an Affidavit of Diligent Search. This clearly outlines all the actions you’ve taken to locate your spouse, thus proving to the Oakland County family court that you made every effort to find them, and despite your best efforts they are unreachable. Our court rules have specific provisions for substituted service and for alternate service. See MCR 2.105 for example. Your divorce lawyer can request special permission to use one of these alternate ways to serve your spouse the divorce, custody or child support documents.

Join us next time to see what’s next on the list. Until then, if you have questions about the divorce, custody or child support process in Oakland County, or are considering getting a divorce, call The Kronzek Firm at (248) 479-6200. Our skilled family law attorneys can help you with every aspect of the process, including spousal support, PPO cases, and even paternity concerns. We have decades of experience and thousands of clients that we have helped. We can help you too.