How to Find Out If I'm Legally Divorced

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

How to Find Out If I'm Legally Divorced

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

To find out if you're legally divorced, you need an actual divorce order from the court. This can be more difficult than it sounds because your spouse could divorce you without your knowledge. While this is a rare occurrence, it happens. And if it's happened to you, you need to understand your rights and how to move forward.

Concerned man with his hand on his forehead reading paperwork

You may not know where your estranged spouse lives and that may be the location where they file for divorce. This can make it extremely challenging for you to find out if you're legally divorced. But this doesn't mean it's impossible. By understanding the process, you can be better equipped to determine if you're legally divorced and, if so, how to get documentation to show it.

Notification Requirements

Each state has slightly different requirements for notifying spouses of a pending divorce. Some states require personal service where you have to sign for the documents. Other states allow your spouse to mail the documents to you.

All states, however, have concessions for a situation where the spouse filing for divorce doesn't know where the other spouse is living. Maybe you've separated and moved to different locations. In this instance, a judge could allow a notice of your pending divorce in the newspaper. If your spouse publishes a notification in their local newspaper, you will have a certain period of time to respond to the publication. If you don't, then your spouse can move forward with the divorce.

Filing for Divorce

A person filing for divorce must file in their home state. States have different residency requirements and your spouse wouldn't be able to file for divorce in a new state until they met those requirements. Some states require people to live there for a few years whereas other states require only a few months.

If you know where your spouse currently resides, then you can search the records in that state for any divorce filings with either their name or your name. But if you don't know where your spouse lives, that complicates the matter. It is possible to find this information yourself or through an attorney.

Challenging a Divorce

Regardless of how or if you were notified of the pending divorce, you can still challenge it in court once the divorce is finalized. When a divorce order is entered without your knowledge, it's called a default judgment.

You can challenge it by providing evidence and showing a valid reason as to why you didn't respond while the divorce was still pending. Some examples of valid reasons would be if your spouse did not make a good faith effort to find you or they misled the court about your whereabouts.

Keep in mind that most states have a time requirement for you to challenge the default judgment of divorce. If you don't challenge the divorce within the required timeframe, you will have to abide by the terms of the default judgment, which could be detrimental to you. That's why it's important to make sure you get a copy of your divorce order.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.