Going through a divorce can be one of the most emotionally, mentally, and financially trying times of a person’s life. This can be especially true if a spouse is noncommunicative throughout the divorce process. According to the CDC, there were over 689,000 divorces filed in 2021 alone. Not reflected in these statistics is the messy reality of being served a divorce notice or, in rarer cases, having your spouse file for divorce without your knowledge.
Filing for divorce is only possible by first serving the spouse with the necessary legal documents. However, there are some loopholes individuals can take that, in effect, mean they are able to file for divorce without their spouse’s knowledge. If you and your spouse have been separated for a period of time with no contact, you may be unsure of the legal status of your marriage. The following information can help you determine if your spouse has officially filed for divorce, giving you sufficient information and foresight to prepare.
How To Find Out if Your Spouse Filed for Divorce
You have the right to know when your spouse has filed for divorce. If you suspect that your spouse has filed without you knowing, it is in your best interests to seek clarification by following the steps below.
1. Seek information from spouse and family
The simplest way to find out if your spouse has filed for divorce is to simply ask them. If you do not have contact with them, you may ask their friends or family if they have any information. However, these parties may choose not to speak to you or tell you the truth.
2. Contact spouse’s attorney
The second option is to contact the attorney representing your spouse to inquire if the divorce has been officially filed. However, an attorney owes their clients confidentiality, so they are under no obligation to give you a definitive answer.
3. Review spouse’s social media
Even if your spouse is no longer in contact with you, they may have shared major life events (including your separation and filing for divorce) on their social media pages. Check to see if your spouse or their online friends have posted anything that may signal that they have filed for divorce.
4. Contact the courthouse
Once you have closed off these unofficial avenues and are still left without an answer, you may look to the legal system. You can contact both your local courthouse and the courthouse where your spouse lives to see if your spouse has filed for divorce. You can search for your name or your spouse’s to determine if they have filed by perusing the public records.
5. Contact the sheriff’s office
Another official avenue you can pursue is your county sheriff’s office. Because sheriffs are often an economical choice of process server, your spouse may have filed for divorce through their office. If the sheriff attempted to serve these orders while you were away from home, you might not be aware that they have them.
6. Look for notice in legal publications
In certain circumstances, individuals may be permitted by the courts to publish a notice of their divorce in a legal notice newspaper that is circulated in their local area. If you have moved across state lines or you and your spouse have been separated for a long time, check any legal newspapers in the county where you and your spouse live.
7. Contact Vital Statistics department
A couple who has been separated for over a year with no contact may be eligible to complete a divorce without the other spouse’s knowledge. If this is the case, the divorce will be legally registered with your state’s vital statistics office (the government office that records births, deaths, marriages, and divorces). You can either search the office’s websites or request the information by mail.
8. Gather information on divorce terms
Finding out your spouse has filed for divorce can be an enormous shock. However, it is also crucial that you are aware of whether this is the case. If your investigations result in you finding out your spouse has filed for divorce, you should find out any applicable details (for example, when and where your spouse filed for divorce).
9. Contact an attorney
As soon as possible, it is in your best interests to seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney. You may have lost valuable time when you were unaware that your spouse had filed, but an attorney's guidance can help you identify the best options going forward.
Common Myths Concerning Divorce Proceedings
All divorces must go through certain legal channels to be considered legitimate. However, certain myths continue to persist regarding divorce proceedings. While you may have heard rumors regarding the following methods of divorcing, it is important to recognize that the examples below are not legally binding means of seeking a divorce.
”Common Law Divorce”
If you and your spouse were never officially married but had a “common law” marriage, do you need a divorce to dissolve the marriage? It depends on the state you currently reside in. If you and your spouse currently reside in a state that recognizes common law marriage (only nine states do), you will need to seek a divorce just like couples who have been officially married. There is no separate legal procedure for a “common law” divorce.
You may have heard of “emergency” orders being filed in the event that a spouse is acting in an abusive, violent, or destructive manner during a separation. However, while these emergency orders can result in temporary restraining orders, custody arrangements, or protections of assets, there is no such thing as a quick divorce, even in emergency circumstances.
Divorce Without Notice
As stated above, no one can file for divorce without giving their spouse notice. This means that effectively legally dissolving a marriage without the other spouse’s knowledge is legally impossible.
How To Find a Divorce Lawyer
If your spouse has filed for divorce without your knowledge, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately to review the terms of the divorce and evaluate whether to pursue legal action. To find quality legal representation in your nearest city, visit Expertise.com’s database of top-ranked divorce lawyers.
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