How to Divorce a Wife That Left the State

by Anna Green
To divorce a wife who left the state, you will generally need to prepare a petition and serve your wife a copy of it.

To divorce a wife who left the state, you will generally need to prepare a petition and serve your wife a copy of it.

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When a wife has left the state, it is still possible to file for divorce. Often, a couple may file for divorce in either spouse's state of residence. That said, most states have length of residency requirements, so if your wife recently moved, you may need to file for divorce in your home state. Further, although you may have the choice of where to file for divorce, consider logistical factors when choosing a jurisdiction. For example, choosing your wife’s state of residence may be costly and inconvenient in contested cases where the court will need to hold a trial.

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Petition Requirements

Regardless of whether you choose to file for divorce in your wife's new state or your home state, you will generally need to prepare a petition to begin the divorce process. The exact requirements for a divorce petition vary from state to state, but in most jurisdictions, a petition must list both spouses’ names, dates of birth, information about children and all parties' addresses. Further, the petition will usually need to include your date and location of marriage, and reasons for filing for divorce. Although each state has different grounds under which a spouse may file for divorce, all states have some type of no-fault divorce. This means a couple can divorce without alleging that either party committed any wrongdoing, such as adultery or abandonment. That said, in some states, a spouse is able to file for divorce by reason of abandonment, adultery or other wrongful act. Before preparing a petition, verify what grounds for divorce your chosen jurisdiction allows.

Filing the Petition

Whether you file for divorce in your home state or your wife’s new state, you will need to file a copy of the divorce petition and proof of service with the court clerk. Each court has its own filing requirements, however. If you choose to file in your wife’s jurisdiction, you may be able to file the petition by mail and pay the filing fee either by money order or via the court clerk’s website. If you file in your home state, then generally, you can file the paperwork with the court either in person or by mail.

Service of Process

After preparing the divorce petition, you will typically need to serve your wife with the divorce papers. Each state makes its own rules, but many jurisdictions will allow a party to serve an out-of-state spouse by certified mail. Alternatively, in many instances, a husband may retain a process server in the wife’s new state, mail the petition to the process server and have the document hand-delivered. A court clerk, divorce attorney or legal aid service can help you determine what methods of service are permitted by the state where you are filing your paperwork.

Locating a Missing Spouse

If you do not know your spouse’s new address or whereabouts, it is still possible to file for divorce, but it will generally prolong the process. In some states, you can petition the court to serve your wife divorce papers using alternate procedures. For example, alternative service may include publishing notice of the divorce in the newspaper. Alternative service options vary from state to state, however, and may not be approved until you have exhausted all other efforts to locate your spouse.

Procedural Issues

After you file your paperwork with the court, you will receive a hearing date. If your wife agrees to the divorce, however, the court may be able to grant your divorce without a hearing. If your wife objects to the divorce, the case will likely go to trial. During the trial, both you and your wife will have an opportunity to submit evidence and present the judge with your respective arguments and counter-arguments.