What If I Can’t Locate My Spouse When Filing for Divorce?

If your spouse abandoned your family, is missing, or is avoiding your summons, it can be difficult to proceed with your divorce. However, Washington State offers a way to move forward without your spouse’s signature in some cases. For you to use this method, known as a “divorce by publication,” the court must agree this is the best route for serving the summons.

Approval for a divorce by publication and/or mail is rare but necessary in some cases. At Crouse Erickson, our Washington State divorce attorneys can help you determine the best way to get the marriage dissolution you are seeking. Call our office today at 509-624-1380 to schedule a time to talk about your case.

What does Washington State law say about divorcing when I cannot locate my spouse?

Washington State law RCW § 4.28.100 outlines the rules for summons by publication and/or mail, which is often the only way to get a divorce if you cannot find your spouse. Under this statute, you must show the court you made an effort to locate your spouse but were unsuccessful. The court rules on your efforts, determining if it believes you were diligent enough. If so, it will grant you the right to divorce after publishing a notification in the local paper.

In some cases, we see clients who know where their estranged spouse lives or stays, but they cannot serve them in person, e.g., the other party tries to avoid the deputy or other person attempting to serve a divorce summons. When this occurs, the court may approve a Motion and Declaration to Serve by Mail.

What do I need to do to prove I have made efforts to locate my spouse?

You have a limited period of time to serve your estranged spouse with divorce papers. It is important to get started locating him/her as soon as possible, and to work diligently. Because you will likely need to report all your efforts to the court, you should keep a written record of your efforts.

Make a list of all places you contact, whether by mail or phone. Write down any interactions with apartment managers, landlords, employers, family members, or friends. Take notes about these conversations, and save a copy of any mail or email you send. Keep any mail returned to you, and ensure your records are clear and concise.

What is the process to divorce by publication and/or mail?

The first step in a divorce by publication and/or mail is to ask the court to rule that you have made a diligent effort to locate your spouse. If we have not already talked about your case, you should to give us a call at this point. We can collect your detailed records about your search efforts and file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and a Motion and Declaration for Service of Summons by publication and/or mail.

If the judge agrees you made a diligent effort and you truly cannot find your estranged spouse, s/he will issue an order allowing you to publish a summons and divorce by publication and/or mail.

Once you have the legal permission, we can help you arrange the publication and/or mail. This occurs in the local newspaper in your county, and must run once a week for six consecutive weeks. Your spouse has 60 days from the first publication and/or mail to respond.

How can a divorce attorney help me navigate this process?

You have the right to get a divorce, even if you cannot find your estranged spouse or s/he is making it difficult to respond or serve the summons. While difficulty locating him/her and getting a response may delay your case, it will not stop it entirely. We know what it takes to get a divorce by publication and/or mail in Washington State, and we can help you take the steps to gain court approval and pursue serving them by publication and/or mail.

We can also represent you in front of the judge and fight for not only the divorce you seek, but also for the child support and any other money owed to you. While your former spouse is not likely to show up and start paying to support his/her children just because the judge ordered it, it is important to realize that hiding does not protect your spouse from these obligations.

Your former spouse will show up one day, whether it is to reach out to parents, connect with old friends or even to try to see your children. When s/he does, we can help you recover the significant sums of money your spouse likely owes.

Schedule a consultation with Crouse Erickson.

At Crouse Erickson our staff understands the emotional and legal stresses of divorce. If you cannot locate your estranged spouse, this only make the process more difficult to navigate on your own. Let us help. Call us today at 509-624-1380 to learn more.

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A perfect balance

David Crouse is a very thorough attorney. He is always professional and maintains a perfect balance of patience, courtesy, and persistence – regardless of the situation. He made himself available, understood my issues, and developed a plan right away; ultimately negotiating an agreement that worked for everyone. I just wish I had hired him sooner.

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