If you have been separated from your spouse for so long that you no longer know where he or she lives, but you are ready to get a divorce, you can still obtain a divorce. However, we highly recommend that this not be attempted without the aid of a lawyer. If the technical requirements are not followed absolutely, the divorce might not go through.
Tennessee has a legal process for divorcing an absent spouse called service by publication. (TN Code § 21-1-204 (2016) Using service by publication is not something that you can default to if your spouse has moved away and changed their phone number. You will be required to put in some serious effort, to document that effort.
What is a “diligent search”?
As the petitioner, the court requires that you conduct a “diligent search” to find your spouse before they will allow you to divorce them in their absence. The court will require that you fill out an “Affidavit of Diligent Search” and submit it to the court. This form captures your details on every step you took to find your missing spouse. You are required to give a good faith effort and exhaust every available option first.
Here are some examples of what you might do to locate a missing spouse:
- Send a registered letter to their last known address
- Ask relatives and friends if they know where the missing person is
- Check to see if the post office has an updated forwarding address
- Do a Google search on their name
- Contact their last known employer
- Check voter registration records and property tax records for a current address
- Hire a private investigator
You will have to take all these steps and document the outcome of each and include the details in the Affidavit of Diligent Search. You may want to work with a Maryville divorce attorney for help and guidance in such a situation.
After a thorough search proves to be fruitless, you may file a Motion for Service of Process by Publication. If the court agrees that you have indeed conducted a diligent search and there is nothing more you can do to locate your spouse, it will give you permission to publish a Publication of Summons for 28 days, and your missing spouse has another 30 days beyond that to respond. If they do not respond, the court may issue a default judgement and grant the divorce.
When you know that it is time to end your marriage, you want to work with an experienced, compassionate Maryville divorce lawyer from Shepherd and Associates, P.C. who will answer your questions and give you solid legal advice. If you do not know what to do about child custody, or division of assets, we can help make sure that you receive a fair settlement. You are welcome to call us at 865.225.9655, or by filling out this contact form.