Completing a Divorce When the Other Spouse’s Whereabouts are Unknown

The law requires that the spouse you are suing for divorce (i.e. the Respondent) be served with a copy of the divorce petition and afforded an opportunity to respond.  How can you meet that requirement when the whereabouts of the other spouse are unknown?

In these situations, the law permits the other spouse to be served with legal notice by “citation by publication.”  Citation by publication involves posting the legal notice involving the petition for divorce in a local newspaper.  For the court to authorize citation by publication, the court must consider an affidavit by the petitioner (i.e. the spouse initiating the divorce) or petitioner’s attorney that states under oath, that:

  • the Respondent’s address is unknown; or,
  • the Respondent is a transient person with no fixed address; and,
  • due diligence has been exercised in trying to locate the Respondent.

In divorce cases, the law only requires the citation to be published one time.  If after publication, the Respondent files an answer or other responsive pleading (e.g. counterpetition for divorce), the the suit will proceed as any other suit for divorce.  If the Respondent fails to file an answer or other responsive pleading within the required time (which is roughly 3 weeks’ time), then how quickly the petitioner can get a divorce depends on whether their are children of the marriage or substantial community property.  I’ll discuss these two track – driven by whether children of the marriage or substantial community property exists – in my next blog.  Stay tuned.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.