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You Want a Divorce, but Can’t Locate your Spouse: Now What?


Is your marriage on the rocks?  Maybe the daily grind of bills, kids, work, and life in general has become so stressful you just don’t know how to manage it all anymore? Perhaps you’re contemplating divorce.  But there’s one big problem: your spouse has skipped out on you and left you holding the bag.  You want to disentangle yourself from the whole sordid mess, but how?

Divorce by Publication 

Generally speaking, when one partner wishes to divorce another, they simply file some basic paperwork and have the respondent served by the sheriff’s office or some other means.  When a spouse has gone missing, however, there’s nowhere to serve those papers to notify of the intent to divorce.  Fortunately, the law provides another way to address the situation.  It’s called divorce by publication, and requires you to conduct a diligent search for the missing party, and file documents saying as much with the court. The first step is to get the form requesting a Motion for Alternate Service and Affidavit (MD Rules 2-121, 2-122).  As per Maryland code 3-306.1, the requirements for the search are quite specific, and include the following:

  • An attempt to serve the missing individual at the last known address by certified mail;
  • A thorough search of the Internet, phone book, and directory assistance;
  • A written request of friends and family of the missing spouse asking for information about the whereabouts of the missing person;
  • A written request to the last known employer requesting assistance in locating the missing spouse;
  • An attempt to locate the missing individual through Maryland’s Motor Vehicles Administration;
  • An effort to connect with the military, Child Support Enforcement Agency, or other relevant agencies that might have information as to the whereabouts of the missing spouse.

Each of these steps must be documented, along with responses from each contact.  In the event the search is not fruitful, a signed Affidavit of Diligent Search could be your ticket to getting the divorce you’re hoping for.

Public Notice 

With the court’s permission, a petitioner may now provide published notice for a minimum of once per week for three weeks in newspaper(s) that are in circulation in the county in which you are seeking the divorce.  At the end of this period if the defendant has still failed to respond to the divorce request, a judge may grant the request by default.  Although it may seem like an overwhelming process, the truth is the divorce could be complete in as little as two or three months.

Your Legal Advocate 

At the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes LLC, our experienced team of Baltimore divorce lawyers know how to proceed through all kinds of divorce issues with the best interests of our clients in mind.  If you wish to divorce an absent spouse, put us to work for you.  Contact our office for a confidential consultation today.




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