Are you trying to file for divorce in Florida, but do not know where your spouse is? This presents a problem if you and your spouse own property together, or if there are monetary rights to be distributed between spouses. Florida law requires the spouse filing for divorce to have the other spouse served with the initial divorce pleadings; in order to have the other spouse served, you must know his or her whereabouts, or be able to show a Judge that you have made a reasonable effort to locate him.
This is called a diligent search and requires sending certified letters to a number of agencies. Some searches require the payment of a fee. You must then wait for responses from the agency regarding your spouse's whereabouts. Examples of the agencies are, U.S. Navy, Florida's Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Corrections, Broward Sheriff's Office (or other county you believe your spouse may reside), his or her last known employer, and to any known friends or family members who may have information regarding your spouse's whereabouts.
While you are waiting for responses from the various agencies listed above, you should take this time to conduct internet searches for your spouse in order to help expedite the process. If at any point in time you are able to locate your spouse, then you may cease the Diligent Search process and proceed with filing your divorce pleadings and having your spouse served at the known location. However, if your internet searches are not successful, and your Diligent Search inquiries come to a dead end, you must execute an Affidavit stating what efforts you made to locate your spouse, what the results of those efforts were, and swearing under oath that your spouse's whereabouts are still unknown. Once you have executed this Affidavit, you must then publish your case in a local newspaper for 4 consecutive weeks (a process called constructive service), and assuming that your spouse does not file a response thereafter, you are then free to move forward without your spouse to seek a Clerk's Default and proceed with the divorce process. While the Court will be able to grant you the divorce, the Court will still be unable to resolve some of the property and/or money issues of the marriage. The Diligent Search and Constructive Service process is time consuming, highly procedural, and requires a lot of waiting around. It is important to start this search process early, and to contact an attorney to assist you so that the Court will grant you the divorce you are seeking. Do not delay; contact a family law attorney at Solaris Law Group, P.A., today.
By: Katherine Miller, Esq.