I’m Getting Divorced but My Spouse is Missing
A marriage is a fascinating time of hopes and dreams, challenge and discovery and is filled with more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster. Unfortunately, many marriages get stuck in a valley and ultimately fail but when the time comes that one spouse decides to call it quits, what happens if they can’t find the other spouse?
Perhaps the other spouse moved three towns over and discontinued communication or picked up and moved to an entirely new state far across the country. Short of sending out a search party or employing a private investigator, divorce or service by publication is the next step.
Service by publication is the process of one spouse publishing a notice in a newspaper in which the other spouse is last known to live for a period of three weeks. In Michigan cases, the missing spouse then has 21 days to respond. If a response is not received, the case evolves to a default status. Prior to this end result, however, several steps are required.
Initiating a Spousal Search
Michigan law approves service by publication only with a sworn declaration from the serving party detailing his or her inability to find a missing spouse. This includes being unable to locate through a sheriff’s department, private organization, or certified mail deeming the effort a “diligent search.”
Search requirements and processes in Michigan require proof of diligent search. Examples of proven efforts are:
• Phone or address searches in the region where the spouse lives or was last known to be located
• Request post office records for forwarding address information
• Property tax records
• Landlords, friends, employers might have information
• The Michigan Secretary of State can provide automobile registration records
The end goal of these search methods is presenting an affidavit of diligent search resulting in unsuccessful location of the missing party.
Michigan’s Divorce by Publication Process
If a complete search indeed is unsuccessful, the serving party completes what is called a Motion and Verification for Alternative Service. This informs the court of efforts made and subsequently requests permission to publish a notice.
Depending on the serving party’s intent, the court determines the most efficient method of action which may be certified mail, securing the order to the other spouse’s front door, or delivering the order to another member of their family. All told, service by publication is roughly a 60-day process from the day a divorce motion is filed, at the end of which the court then makes motions on the case.
Court motions as a result of service by publication include dissolving the couple’s estate through action such as dividing property, dividing debts and/or assets, and child custody details like visitation parameters and child support.
In situations of this nature, it is best to partner with experts to help reach an ideal conclusion. Every case is different and can involve delicate elements of family, property, children, or business. Reach out to The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 to discuss your options. Our experience in Michigan divorce law will be an invaluable guide.
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