What if my spouse disappears during the divorce process?

When you are getting divorced, you are seeking a life separate from your spouse. However, what happens if your spouse takes off and disappears before your divorce is finalized? Can you still conclude your divorce case and move on with your life?

The good news is that you can still legally end your marriage without your spouse. However, the decisions the court will make depend on the timing of your spouse’s disappearance. In this situation, you want to have an experienced Forsyth County divorce attorney representing you and navigating the divorce process.

When Your Spouse Disappears After You Filed a Case

If you filed for divorce and properly served the papers on your spouse, and they later fell out of communication with you and went missing, the court will likely agree to move forward with the case. Once your spouse has been notified that you initiated a divorce case, it is their responsibility to respond and take part in the case if they choose.

By disappearing, your spouse is signaling that they no longer want to participate in the divorce, so the court will likely hold hearings as usual to rule on various issues. Generally, in this situation, the court should award any reasonable requests you make regarding property division, child custody, and similar matters. This is because your spouse voluntarily chose to leave and not to contest any of these issues.

Filing for Divorce Without Your Spouse Present

Sometimes, a spouse will disappear, which leads you to file for divorce in the first place. Under the law, when you file a divorce case against your spouse, you need to notify them of the matter. However, if you do not know where they are, you can provide notice by publication under Georgia law. This means that the court gives you permission to publish the notice in the newspaper instead of providing it directly to your spouse. 

Before you can provide notice by publication, you will need to put in a good faith effort to find your spouse. Ask friends and family, contact employers or professional organizations, search the internet, check DMV records and jails, and more. Once the court is satisfied that you tried to find them, the judge can allow notice by publication and move forward with the divorce case.

If your spouse was missing prior to the case, however, the court might not rule on all relevant issues in your case. The judge can declare your marriage legally over, though they cannot issue orders for your spouse to pay child or spousal support, property or asset division, or child custody. They can end your marriage, though, which might be the main objective you have.

Let Our Forsyth County Divorce Attorneys Help

At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP, our Forsyth County divorce lawyers represent clients in all situations, including those who have a spouse disappear. We are ready to help you through the divorce process, so please contact us online or call (770) 887-1209 to learn more about our services.