Florida Divorce Laws With a Missing Spouse

By Rebecca Hayley

When you are unable to locate your spouse, you may still obtain a divorce under Florida law, but it takes some extra effort and steps. To begin the divorce process in Florida, you must be a Florida resident for at least six months prior to filing, file a divorce petition with the court and serve the petition and summons on your spouse. However, if your spouse is missing, you must comply with Florida's constructive service statute, which is service by publication.

Attempt to Locate Your Spouse

Once you file the Petition for Dissolution for Marriage, you must search for your missing spouse. You can begin your search at his last known address. If he has moved, try to locate him by searching phone books, conducting an Internet search, asking mutual friends about his whereabouts, or looking him up on social networking sites. You need to make a diligent effort to find him. If you haven't located your spouse after making a diligent search for him, you may seek to serve him by publication.

Sworn Statement

If you cannot locate your spouse to serve him with the petition and summons, you must prepare and file a sworn statement attesting to the court that you cannot locate your spouse, despite your diligent efforts. Include in the statement that he is of legal age and provide his full name. Outline the efforts you made to locate him. Include a clause swearing under penalty of perjury that the information provided on the statement is true. Review Florida Code 49.031-49.041 carefully before preparing your statement, or seek the assistance of an attorney or online document preparation service.

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Publish the Notice

Within 60 days of filing the sworn statement, the court may issue a Notice of Action allowing service by publication. The Notice of Action will outline the information you need to include in the notice you publish. This information will include the fact that the divorce is pending and identify the court where the petition is filed. Publish the information in a local newspaper in the legal notices section. You are responsible for the publication fees. Follow the requirements given by the court regarding the number of days and location of the newspaper in which you must publish the notice.

Affidavit as Proof of Publication

Prepare and file an affidavit with the court, stating the information included in the notice, dates of publication and newspaper in which it was published, no less than 28 days after the first date of publication. Be sure to attach a copy of the published notice. Once the court is satisfied that you made a diligent effort to locate your spouse, published the proper notification and the required time has elapsed without a response from your missing spouse, the court may enter a default judgment granting your divorce.

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