What happens if you don't know your spouse's whereabouts in order to serve a divorce petition?

In most circumstances a divorce petition must be served on the respondent in order for the court to continue the proceedings.

In the vast majority of cases this is a simple matter of handing the divorce papers to your spouse at a convenient time, of having them posted either personally or via your family law solicitor. It is common for the whereabouts of both parties to the divorce to be known, and in such circumstances there is rarely any issue regarding the serving of the petition.

What should you do if your spouse isn't responding?

In some cases however the spouse of the petitioner has left the area, moved abroad, or may even be deliberately evasive in order to avoid going through the process of divorce.

In these circumstances knowing what to do can be difficult and it can begin to seem like an impossible task. The first step is to notify your family law solicitor that you believe you may have difficulty serving papers on your spouse. The court will attempt to serve papers using a court bailiff, but this can be difficult if your partner has moved.

Tracking down your spouse

If you believe they still live locally, or have information relating to their whereabouts, you might best serve the petition by hiring a private ‘process server’.

They will track down the respondent using the information provided, and personally serve papers to them obtaining a sworn affidavit in the process. Although expensive, it is likely that any costs incurred can be reclaimed from the respondent.

If your spouse cannot be located

In the event that your spouse cannot be located, you can apply to the court to dispense with service. This is comparatively rare, and will only be granted if you can demonstrate that you have exhausted all reasonable avenues in attempting to locate your spouse.

This will include evidence that you have contacted known family and friends, previous employers and perhaps have even had an advert placed in a local paper. If the court is satisfied that the respondent cannot be found, they can grant an order to dispense with service which will allow your divorce to proceed without the respondent.

Your divorce solicitor will be able to advise you throughout the process, and will make your application to dispense with service on your behalf.

If you have any questions or would like our help in finding local family or divorce solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.