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Can I Get Divorced If I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Lives?

If you have had no contact with your spouse for more than a year, and you truly do not know how to locate him or her, through family members or otherwise, you should be able to file a divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or based on desertion. You would have to file the divorce in the county where you last lived together or where the breakdown of the marriage occurred. To file a divorce in Massachusetts, you would have to have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year.

In order to proceed, after you have filed a Complaint for Divorce, you will have to file a motion (a written request to the court) seeking service by publication and mailing. This means you are asking the court to allow you to publish the summons (notice of the divorce) in a newspaper and to mail the complaint and summons, by certified mail return receipt requested, to your spouse’s last known address. Once this motion is allowed, you will get a citation instructing you how to accomplish service of the Complaint for Divorce on your spouse.

Publication in a newspaper can be expensive, depending upon in which newspaper you must publish. The newspaper will send you the “tear sheet” as proof of the publication. You will also get the return receipt of the certified mail from the post office. Once you have the tear sheet and return receipt, you will have to file those in court to prove that you followed the instructions on the citation correctly.

Once this is accomplished, the court should start scheduling your case for hearing.

This entire process can be very tricky, and, since your spouse will not be present at the hearing, you may not be able to accomplish certain divisions of property, without expert assistance from a lawyer.

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