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I Cannot Find My Spouse for a Divorce

Filing for divorce in Tennessee is relatively simple, but you will have to take additional steps if you cannot find your spouse.

Not all married couples are living together when they seek a divorce. Sometimes, one spouse has already left the home before the divorce process begins. A spouse may have been gone for several months before a complaint for divorce is actually filed with the court, and the other spouse may not know where they went.

When this is the case, you may think you have no choice but to stay married until you can find your spouse. Fortunately, that is not true. You can still get a divorce if you cannot find your spouse, but you will have to take some additional steps.

The Usual Process for a Divorce

The divorce case formally begins when the complaint for divorce is filed with the court. In most cases, either a Sheriff’s Deputy or process server will then serve your spouse with the complaint and a summons to file an answer within thirty days. In some cases, you may serve your spouse by certified mail, return receipt requested. Or your attorney may ask the spouse to sign a written waiver of formal service, and receive a copy of the summons and complaint at the same time.

After your spouse has received the complaint and summons, they then have 30 days to answer the complaint. They can also include a counter-complaint that alleges their own grounds for divorce and gives the spouse the chance to state what they want from the divorce proceedings.

This is how many divorces in Tennessee proceed. However, if you do not know where your spouse is, you will have to take steps to try to serve them by publication.

Service by Publication

Steps will have to be taken to try to obtain your spouse’s address by all reasonable means (your attorney can discuss this with you), and submit an affidavit about this to the court along with a motion for service by publication. If a judge grants your request for an Order for service by publication, you will have to place the required notice in the newspaper that states that the complaint for divorce has been filed. There may be an issue about which city the notice is to be published in. I once had a case where I was required to publish in the county where I filed the complaint, but also had to file in the place where the last known address of the spouse was located. The notice will have to run once a week for four weeks. Then your spouse will be given an additional 30 days in which to file an answer in the case.

In the event that your spouse does not respond to the publication, you will need to file proof of publication, and then a judge may grant your divorce by default. This means that the judge can then make decisions on the divorce case, just as they would if your spouse were participating. These include decisions on property division, child support, and any other issue in the divorce case.

Call a Tennessee Divorce Lawyer for Help with Your Case

Divorce is never an easy process, and it becomes even more challenging when you cannot find your spouse. Working with an attorney will make it easier. I am dedicated to helping spouses through the divorce process and I will help you meet the requirements for service by publication so your divorce case proceeds as quickly and easily as possible. Call me, Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law, a Franklin divorce lawyer, at (615) 791-8511 or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your case and move forward.