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How to Divorce When You Can’t Locate Your Spouse

Courts require petitioners to serve divorce papers on their spouse after filing. What happens if you want to get a divorce, but your spouse has disappeared? Are you doomed to stay married to them forever?

Fortunately, Minnesota courts allow petitioners to file a motion to serve by “alternate means.” Your attorney can help you file the motion and provide supporting documentation. Here’s an overview of the process.

What is a petition to serve by alternate means?

When you can’t physically serve papers on your spouse, you may request permission to serve them by publishing a notice in the newspaper or sending the divorce petition to their last known address. Before a judge will sign off on the motion, however, you must show that you’ve made sufficient efforts to find your spouse, and you’re still unable to locate them.

How to support your motion

The petition to serve by alternate means asks for names and locations of your spouse’s relatives, last known employment and other people who may know where they are. It also asks you to describe your reasonable efforts to find your spouse.

Documentation is the key to proving you’ve made a sincere effort to find your spouse. Keep lists of who you have contacted, whether you received a response and what that was. As you try to locate them, keep records of any texts, emails or documents you send or receive in the process. If any mail is returned to you as undeliverable, save that as well.

What happens if they still can’t be located?

After you serve your spouse with divorce papers, they normally have 30 days to answer. If they fail to answer, you may ask the judge to grant everything you requested in your divorce petition since they are in “default.”

If your spouse is served under alternate means, they are considered to be in default when it has been 51 days since someone mailed the divorce papers to their last known address, and/or it has been 51 days since the notice was first published in the newspaper. You’ll still need to finish additional paperwork before the divorce is complete.

For help with divorce when you can’t locate your spouse, call the knowledgeable divorce lawyers at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. in St. Paul, MN.

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