The short answer is: yes, you can still get a divorce even if you can’t find your spouse.
Oregon, like most states in the union, practices no-fault divorce. These laws are in place so no one is forced to remain in a marriage if they don’t want to stay.
How To Divorce When You Can’t Find Your Spouse
All divorces are different. How it goes depends entirely on the specifics of your marriage and relationship. However, the process changes if you can’t locate your significant other.
Though this obviously complicates matters, you can dissolve your marriage in Oregon even if your spouse fell off the face of the Earth.
Start The Divorce Process
Like with any other divorce, you need to get the process started. First things first, get your hands on the appropriate forms, fill them out, and file them with the proper court. You also have a few fees to pay along the way.
If you can’t find your spouse, the next step is where things get tricky. But for all intents and purposes, the initial move is the same. Get the ball rolling and you go forward from there.
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Attempt to Locate Your Spouse
The next step to divorce is usually serving your soon-to-be-ex and declaring your intention to dissolve your marriage. Again, this gets tricky when they’re nowhere to be found.
Before you can move on to the next step in the process, you have to do the legwork and put in a good-faith effort to locate them.
The court requires proof of a “diligent search,” so make sure to document the work you put in every step of the way. Track who you call, where you search, and all the rest.
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Tools To Help Find Your Spouse
You have countless search tools at your disposal if you can’t find your spouse. What works depends a great deal on your particular circumstances, and who you want to find, but at least you have places to start.
It’s also a different situation when someone simply moved away versus when they actively don’t want to be found. And all of these factors shape your task.
It may sound basic, but the obvious choices are usually good places to start.
- Check out their last known address and the last place that you know they worked. Even if they’re not there anymore, landlords or bosses may have an idea where they went.
- If you still have contact information for her family or any friends, that’s another place to look.
- Technology is a valuable ally, and online tools and resources often yield results. In some instances, a cursory internet search may provide clues, places to check, or even the jackpot.
- Dig into phone listings in the area where you know they lived.
- Examine various databases, public court records, and even the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- Look at the DMV, military records, and the Social Security Death Index.
- Hire a private investigator. What may take you some time may be a walk in the park for an experienced professional.
If you hired a lawyer in your case, they should be able to help if you can’t find your spouse. If nothing else, they will have suggestions of where to start.
Again, keep records of all your efforts. It’s important to show the court you did your best. Divorce laws demand you do the work.
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Service By Alternative Means
If you find your spouse, great, proceed with your divorce as normal. Once you exhaust your options, scour the Earth for your spouse, and prove you did everything you can, no-fault divorce laws still allow you to move ahead.
In this case, the next step is to serve your spouse by court-approved alternative means. This is basically the final legal hoop to jump through.
It shows that you did the leg work and legitimately tried every possible option. The court must sign off on this measure, which is why it’s vital to document efforts to find your spouse, even if your search ultimately proves unsuccessful.
There are a few different ways to serve your spouse in these cases:
Service by Publication
One of these alternatives is service by publication. More or less what it sounds like, service by publication means you must release a public notice via an acceptable source. This most often takes the form of a news outlet, usually a newspaper in the area where your spouse most likely lives. The summons must appear once a week for four straight weeks.
Service by Posting
Another method is service by posting. In these cases, the court approves displaying the summons in a public area of the courthouse. Visible to as many people as possible, the goal is to make this document accessible to your spouse. This has an advantage over service by publication as posting is usually free.
Service by Mail
In Oregon, the court may also require you to send a copy of the summons to your spouse’s last known address. If this information is seriously out of date, this may not be an option.
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Motion For Default
In most cases, alternative forms of service don’t yield significant results, but again, it does show you tried. And once you do that, it’s finally time to move on to the next step.
After 30 days, if you can’t find your spouse and they fail to respond to the published summons, you can apply for a Motion and Order Allowing Judgment by Default.
This says you did everything you could but your spouse didn’t show. By failing to respond, they are in default, and this document asks the court to grant a judgment in your favor.
If you’ve been apart for so long you can’t find your spouse, there probably isn’t much property or assets to divide. But now, even without your spouse’s direct involvement, the court is free to split up any shared resources, rule on child custody, and the like.
When you can’t find your spouse, it complicates the divorce process, but it is still possible. You just have to check off a few more boxes along the way.
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