How to Find Out If I'm Legally Divorced

By Beverly Bird

The only definitive way to know if you are divorced is to locate a decree. However, not being able to find a decree doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still married. It may simply mean that your spouse didn’t divorce you in the state and county where you think she did. Determining your marital status if you don’t know where your spouse is, and if you can’t ask her, is a little like hunting for the needle in the proverbial haystack.

Step 1

Contact the legal notice department of the newspaper that serves the area where you and your spouse last lived together. If your spouse couldn't find you, she may have gotten permission from the court to use constructive service instead. This usually means posting notice of her intention to divorce you in the newspaper. This is the only way your spouse could have divorced you without having you personally served with papers. Requesting a search through the paper's published notices for your name, may turn up the notice.

Step 2

Call the courthouse in the county and state where you last lived together. If you were lucky enough to find a divorce notice with the newspaper, this will lead you to the court in the correct county; the legal notice will include the court’s name. Ask the clerk to search computer records for your name. If your spouse did not follow through with the divorce after publishing notice, however, you might hit a dead end and find no record of a decree.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 3

Use the Internet to find out if the state where you last lived together offers a searchable docket database online. Some states, such as New York, provide this service. If your state does, you may be able do a search for just your name, but you may have to input a county as well. If you came up empty when you contacted the courthouse, cross that county off your list and try others.

Step 4

Contact your state’s department of vital records, if you strike out with the newspaper and the county court. Even if your state has no searchable docketing database online, its department of public records should have a copy of your divorce certificate, if you're divorced. This might not produce results, however, because most states will require not only your name and your spouse’s name to confirm a decree, but information that’s not available to you as well, such as your docket number and the date of your divorce.

Step 5

Try to find your spouse if you can’t find a decree. If you have information such as her Social Security number, date of birth and last known address, a private investigator may be able to find her for you. If you ever filed a tax return together, her Social Security number will be on it. Private investigators can search databases not available to the general public, so you might be able to locate her this way. If you do, you can ask her if she divorced you and get a copy of the decree.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Can I Be Divorced & Not Have Papers?


Related articles

How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree in Maryland

Although a divorce decree is a court order and is therefore technically a matter of public record, most states have tightened their procedures regarding who can actually get a copy since the events of September 11, 2001. Maryland requires that the person who is making the request for a decree have some intimate knowledge of it, such as the exact date the judge signed it. If you’re looking for a copy of your own decree and you don’t know the date, you can still get a copy, but you’ll need proof of your identity.

How to File for Divorce if I Can't Find My Spouse in New Hampshire

No state forces you to remain married just because you don’t know where your spouse is living. New Hampshire law specifies a procedure for filing for divorce if you’ve lost track of your spouse's whereabouts. You'll have to take a few additional steps, but your divorce can then proceed along normal channels.

Texas Divorce Laws When a Respondent Cannot Be Located

The typical divorce process requires you to serve your spouse with divorce papers, but you may not be able to get the papers to your spouse if you don’t know where he is. However, that doesn’t mean you have to stay married. Though it is more difficult to divorce when you cannot locate your spouse, Texas laws on service by publication and posting make it possible.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Divorce in Florida if Your Spouse Is Nowhere to Be Found

One of the basic freedoms that comes with living in America is that no one can force you to stay married – even if your ...

How to Get Divorced if the Spouse's Location Is Unknown

Although it’s possible to divorce a missing spouse, technology and the Internet might make it possible to avoid ...

How to Place a Divorce Notice in a Newspaper

Although no law can force you to stay married to your spouse, he can make it difficult to divorce him if you can’t find ...

How to File for Divorce in South Carolina When the Spouse's Residence Is Unknown

Not all spouses run immediately to the courthouse to file for divorce when they separate. You might live apart for a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED