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Divorcing A Spouse Who’s Disappeared


When you got married, you were realistic to know that it wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses. But you were in love and figured that love would get you through the tough times.  One thing you never could have anticipated is that your spouse would up and leave with not even a breadcrumb to indicate their whereabouts.  Now that you’ve given up hope of ever reconciling, you are ready to buck up and get a divorce.  But how do you do that when you have no earthly idea where your spouse could be found?  There is a way!


Typically in a Maryland divorce, you have your spouse served with divorce papers and they have 30 days in which to respond (60 days if they live out of state).  But that’s not possible if you don’t know where they are. Nonetheless, according to Maryland law you are entitled to request an Order of Default divorce if you are willing to put in the effort and time. Specifically, you need to engage in a little bit of detective work in an effort to convince the court that you’ve made an honest effort to serve your spouse. What does that look like?  It can include a variety of endeavors, some of which include:

  • Checking with friends and family;
  • Hiring a private investigator;
  • Checking with the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies;
  • Looking into the possibility of incarceration or homelessness;
  • Checking with the last known employer;
  • Checking the Social Security death index to see if they’ve died.

When your search is completed and has turned out to be fruitless, you will present an affidavit to the court saying as much, along with documentation to support that conclusion. At that point you can request a Motion of Service by Publication, which requires that you post a notice in the newspaper each week for at least three weeks.

Order of Default 

If these efforts result in no sign of your spouse, you can now request an Order of Default, which is then used to request a divorce hearing. At the hearing, you’ll likely be granted the divorce, but getting child support, spousal support, and even custody and visitation issues resolved is basically impossible. Nevertheless, you will be legally free of your spouse, and can pursue those issues should they reappear down the road.

Getting it Right 

At the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our experienced Baltimore divorce attorneys are more than familiar with situations like this and are prepared to assist and guide you every step of the way. To discuss the specifics of your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.



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