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The Case of the Missing Spouse: When You Cannot Find Your Spouse to Serve Them

If you need to serve your spouse in preparation for divorce, you may find yourself feeling apprehensive regarding a confrontation.  However, some seeking a divorce or separation may be surprised to find that they encounter quite the opposite problem: a missing spouse, or one who manages to evade service.  How should the spouse pursuing the divorce proceed?

Overview of the Initial Divorce Requirements

If one individual, separated from his or her partner, wishes to pursue a divorce, he or she should begin by filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage (that is, the divorce) in the county in which he or she lives.  The filing spouse must have lived as a resident of the county in which he or she files for at least six months before filing.  There are several requirements regarding the content of the petition for the dissolution of marriage.  A divorce or family law attorney can easily take care of this process and help to ensure that your filings contain all required information and are in compliance with Florida state law.

After filing, the filing spouse must “serve” the petition upon his or her partner.  “Service” is a legal mechanism required so that individuals being brought to court (as a spouse would be in a divorce case) are notified of when, where, and why they are required to participate in the legal proceedings, and involves the filing spouse bringing his or her partner a copy of the petition that has already been submitted to the court.  This is where spouses estranged from one another or who are unable to locate each other for other reasons can encounter difficulty.

Service Options

If the filing spouse’s partner agrees, he or she can simply accept service (or designate an attorney to do so for them) by submitting an answer and waiver of service.  But if the filing spouse cannot find his or her partner?  These options may be appropriate.

  • The Sheriff’s Office – Depending on the county, some sheriff’s offices in Florida will complete service for you upon request or a fee. You can contact your court clerk to inquire as to whether that is an option for you in your location, though a better choice may be to retain an attorney who can assist with this process more effectively.
  • A Private Process Server – Regardless of your location, paying a private process server to serve your spouse is also an option. A court clerk’s office can also supply a list of approved process servers from which the filing spouse can choose, though, again, counsel can take care of this process more efficiently.
  • Constructive Service – Constructive service is an older method of service still supported by law but less preferred. Notice of the divorce filing is published in a local newspaper (for a fee) for the period of time prescribed by law (generally thirty days).  If you select this route, the process will needed to be completed in accordance with state law.  Courts often have a pre-selected newspaper of choice and other requirements.

Service may appear to be a simple matter, though if completed improperly, entire cases can be stalled or ended.  The assistance of experienced family law attorneys can help prevent difficulties like these.  At Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, our skilled family law attorneys can help. Call 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.

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