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Moving forward with a divorce is something few people want to delay unnecessarily. Yet, no matter how well you plan and expect cooperation from your spouse, sometimes things do not go as planned.
While most couples file for divorce once they decide the marriage is over, others may choose to simply abandon their spouse. This leads to a “missing” spouse that you have no idea how to locate. Under normal circumstances, you must serve divorce papers before legal proceedings can begin.
What are your options if your spouse decides to leave without sharing their contact information? One option you could pursue is to get an annulment to end the marriage.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment of a marriage is the legal process of dissolving the union by declaring it null and void. Unlike a divorce that terminates a legal marriage, an annulment is a court declaration that the marriage never existed. In both cases, the couple returns to single or unmarried status after the decree.
How the Annulment Process Works
In the traditional method of initiating a divorce proceeding, your attorney must serve your spouse with notice of the action. Typically, the papers are served at your spouse’s last known address. The notice can also be delivered in person if your spouse is located somewhere else, such as their place of employment.
However, if your attorney has made diligent efforts to find your spouse, but has been unsuccessful, you can request an Order of Notice by Publication. This gives you the chance to place a notice of your intent to divorce your spouse in a local newspaper. The newspaper must be near your spouse’s last known address.
So, if you live in Georgia, but the last address you have for your spouse is Indiana, you must run the notice in an Indiana newspaper that publishes near your spouse’s address. Generally, the legal advertisement runs for at least three weeks. Your spouse will get time to respond to the final notice. If your spouse never responds your attorney may begin the proceedings to finalize your divorce by default.
Service By Publication Notice
It is important to make sure you exhaust all efforts to locate your spouse before seeking an annulment. Secondly, the court must approve placing the notice to your missing spouse in a local newspaper. The divorce is filed before placing the ad.
Verify whether you can choose the local paper; some courts have recommended papers in which to place the notice. Others may require placing the notice in a paper with a certain circulation number. Additionally, your attorney will make sure you can prove that all effort to locate your spouse is exhausted before petitioning the court for an annulment.
Once the court makes the default judgment, it will also decide the terms of the divorce based on what you have requested. In what is usually agreed to in a settlement agreement between both parties, the court issues a decision based on your grounds. This may include division of property, child support, spousal support, custody and visitation rights.