Serving Divorce Papers To A Missing Spouse

divorce agreementQuestion:

I filed for divorce almost two months ago, but have not been able to serve my spouse. I sent the papers to her last known address and it was returned.

What options do I have? Can I file for a default divorce? 


While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and am unable to give you legal advice, I can give you some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.

Where I do practice in Virginia, if you are unable to locate your spouse you have to file by publication. What that means, is that you have to file notice of the divorce in the local newspaper.

Generally, each court has their newspaper of choice. Once the notice has run for the required number of days, you can precede with the divorce, even if the other side is not there.

However, if you know where your spouse lives, you may need to have him/her served by a private process server. Generally, private process servers cost more, but will make sure your spouse gets the papers handed to them.

Also, you can ask your spouse to waive service. You will have to get her/him to sign a specialized document, but once signed you can mail or email the documents.

Service of documents is very important in any case because if you mess it up, the other side can have the outcome of the case thrown out. In divorces, this is especially problematic because it can nullify future marriages.

Questions regarding service of process require a specialized knowledge of local law. For these reasons I would suggest you contact an attorney who specializes in family law matters in your jurisdiction.

Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than tips on these matters.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, contact Cordell & Cordell.

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Shawn Garrison is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell & Cordell UK. He has written countless pieces dealing with the unique child custody and divorce issues that men and fathers face. Through his work on,, and, Mr. Garrison has become an authority on the complexities of the legal experience and was a content creator for the YouTube series “Dad’s Divorce Live” and additional videos on both the Dad’s Divorce and Cordell & Cordell YouTube channels. Mr. Garrison has managed the sites of these customers, and fostered the creation of several of their features, including the Cordell & Cordell attorney and office pages, the Dad’s Divorce Newsletter, and the Cordell & Cordell newsletter.

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