Part 2 – Completing a Divorce When the Other Spouse’s Whereabouts Are Unknown

This is the second in a two-part blog.  This second blog focuses on the two tracks available for finishing a divorce when: (1) the other spouse’s whereabouts are unknown; (2) the other spouse has been served by “Citation by Publication”; and, (3) the other spouse failed to file an answer or other responsive pleading.  Before reading this blog, you might want to glance at the first blog by clicking here.

Track 1:  As a general rule, whenever a person served by Citation by Publication fails to answer or otherwise file a responsive pleading (e.g. counterpetition for divorce; request for temporary orders; etc.), the law requires that the court appoint an Attorney Ad Litem to represent the interests of the absent spouse.  An Attorney Ad Litem is simply another attorney who “stands in” for the absent spouse to ensure that the Petitioner doesn’t take shortcuts and the absent spouse is treated fairly in court proceedings.  An Attorney Ad Litem is entitled to reasonable compensation.  The Petitioner will pay the Attorney Ad Litem’s fees since there’s nobody else to do so.  It’s simply an additional cost of completing a divorce when the other spouse cannot be located.

Track 2:  An Attorney Ad Litem is not required in all cases.  The Family Code provides that “if the Petitioner or the Petitioner’s attorney makes an oath that no child under 18 years of age was born or adopted by the spouses and that no appreciable amount of community property exists, the court may dispense with appointment of an Attorney Ad Litem.”  See Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 6.409(e).  So, if you fit this scenario — no children and no appreciable amount of community property — then the divorce can happen both cheaper and quicker, despite the other spouse being absent with whereabouts unknown.  Exceptions may exist in military divorce where the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) applies.

For questions about obtaining a divorce when the other spouse’s whereabouts are unknown or other divorce-related questions, speak with a qualified divorce attorney. 

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.