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When You Can't Find Your Spouse

If you don't know where your spouse is living or where to find your spouse, you can still get a divorce in Alabama. It will just take a little longer than an uncontested divorce. What you'll need to do is to get service of process on your spouse using a technical provision of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure that allows service by publication. Your lawyer will help you prepare the necessary documents and will file the complaint in the county where you live.

After you file, the court will publish a notice in a local newspaper in your area for four consecutive weeks. Nobody expects your spouse actually to find that notice and read it, but it is published, it satisfies the standard, and it will allow you to get service of process to move forward with a divorce. 30 days after the fourth week, your lawyer can apply for your spouse to be deemed in default. The court will set a hearing, you will provide testimony about your marriage to and separation from your spouse, and the court will issue the divorce decree. Expect your divorce to be effective within about four months after you file it.

There are some limitations on what you can accomplish when you get service of process by publication. You can get the court to award custody of a child, for example, but the court typically will not order child support to be paid by an absent parent. Also, the court typically won't order the transfer of any property when the defendant is served by publication. That will just have to wait until you can find them and get actual personal service of process on them.

I do not provide services for divorce by publication; all my work is focused on couples who are able to be reasonably cooperative, meaning they're able to find and talk with each other. Most any divorce attorney is skilled and able to help you with this, however, and the charge usually isn't exorbitant.

Perhaps the most significant hurdle to obtaining a divorce by publication is proving to the satisfaction of the judge that you really do not know how to find your spouse. Many courts require proof that you've exhausted all the practical means to locate your spouse, like attempting to serve by mail, making phone calls, and making Internet searches.

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