Life is unpredictable, and a myriad of reasons may lead to the desire to dissolve a marriage. In Indiana, as in other states, there are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested. In each of these divorce types, both spouses are involved in the process of termination. There are situations, however, where a person wants to end a marriage, but does not know the whereabouts of his or her spouse. What should be done in this case? Must one continue living in this marriage until the other spouse is found? The answer is no. Even if you don’t know where your spouse is, you can still get a divorce.
If the location of one spouse is unknown, and the other spouse wants to dissolve the marriage, he is a candidate for a “Divorce by Publication”, and it is also worth noting that the divorce will be uncontested, since the missing spouse will not participate in court hearings. Before you start a divorce, try to find your spouse and if this works, discuss the terms of your dissolution with him or her. If you are unable to find your spouse, you still have the right to file for divorce.
Divorces must be conducted in compliance with residence requirements. The plaintiff must be an Indiana resident for at least 6 consecutive months before filing a lawsuit, and must have resided for at least 3 months in the county where he or she wants to get a divorce. The plaintiff must also fill out all the necessary paperwork for dissolution. This includes a Petition for Dissolution, as well as various papers that describe the financial situation of the plaintiff. If there are minor children in the family, the claimant must also complete the appropriate form. Depending on the county, it may be necessary to submit additional papers, a list of which can be provided by a court clerk.
The traditional divorce method requires the plaintiff to serve the defendant – in other words, provide him or her with copies of all the divorce documents that were filed with the court. If it is not known where the defendant is, the plaintiff must conduct a thorough search. Indiana Courts require the plaintiff to provide all possible evidence that he or she has made every effort to find the missing spouse. The plaintiff must sue the Affidavit of Diligent Search. In this form, all the actions that were taken by the plaintiff in order to find the defendant, must be clearly stated.
The Affidavit of Diligent Search proves to the court that the defendant cannot be found, and gives the claimant the right to get a divorce by publication. This represents an alternative to the standard method. The plaintiff must make a publication (Summons) in a newspaper with his intention to divorce. The Summons should contain the following data: the name of the missing spouse, the number of the divorce case registered by the court, the name of the case, the name of the claimant and his/her lawyer, a brief description of the claim for divorce, as well as a statement that the respondent must file an answer within 30 days of the final publication. The summons must be published 3 times under the following schedule: the first publication, then the second publication from 7 to 14 days after the first publication, then the final publication from 7 to 14 days after the release of the second publication. The summons must appear in a newspaper authorized by law to publish notices, in the county where the claimant lives or where the divorce case is being considered.
A copy of the summons must be sent to the court after the final publication has been released. In some counties it is necessary to submit a notice stating that the missing spouse does not perform military service, since legislation protects the military from divorce for the entire period of their service.
Divorces with missing spouses usually take longer than uncontested dissolutions with both parties present – however, they can be obtained. Despite the lack of one spouse in the courtroom, the judge will still consider the issues of the division of property and custody over minor children.