Divorce by Publication: How to Get Divorced, Even if You Cannot Find Your Spouse

I’ve heard it many times before: a client wants and needs to get a divorce, but his or her spouse is nowhere to be found. Either they ran off with the intention of shirking family responsibilities, or in other cases, the couple grew apart years ago and never bothered to formally get divorced. 

Either way, if you need to get divorced but cannot find your spouse, take heart, there is a solution. In Colorado, there is a process by which you can request the Court’s permission to serve somebody divorce papers by publication. 

Serving Divorce Papers via Publication

Here’s how it works: if you took good faith steps to find your spouse (calling them, looking them up, reaching out to friends and family members, doing an Internet search, etc.) and you still were not able to locate him or her, you can file a motion indicating that you made an effort and were unsuccessful. The Court will then allow you to serve your spouse by publication. 

Every newspaper has a legal page. So, you publish on the legal page something that has an official notice (the paper has a form) that indicates that you’re trying to get a divorce. This message is published several times over a specific period of time, and the newspaper will give you a return of service. 

When you present that return of service to the Court, proving that you took every reasonable step to find and notify your spouse and you still haven’t gotten a response, the Court recognizes that you have sufficient jurisdiction to get the divorce. 

However, it is unlikely that the Court will deal with the other issues that typically need to be resolved in divorce, such as division of property, custody, child support payments, or spousal support. 

Considering Divorce Papers by Publication

It is reasonable to assume that, in this day and age, there is a very slim chance that your spouse will actually stumble upon the divorce notification via the local newspaper’s legal page. I read two newspapers every day and I never look at the page that contains these legal notices—and I’m a divorce lawyer. 

Yet the requirement is still there. Perhaps it’s outdated, but at this point, there are no reasonable alternatives.

In fact, it’s because the likelihood is so small of the publication notification actually being found by your spouse that the Court is not authorized to deal with division of property or other financial issues in this manner. It’s not legal to serve someone with divorce papers via publication, then show up in Court and say, “Hey, Judge, I’d like a $10,000 per month maintenance.” 

So, you can see that although this mode of communication may be outdated, the Courts do recognize this and have attempted to make things as fair as possible in the event that one spouse has been impossible to locate. 

If you are going through a divorce and you cannot locate your spouse, let’s talk.  Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation. 

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