Dear New Port Richey,
Most states allow you to file for divorce and even get divorced if the whereabouts of your spouse are unknown. So yes, it can be done. There are, however, certain steps you must take to make sure that person cannot be located. No, you probably don't have to hire a detective. You may have to serve your spouse at the last known address, do a search of the military and place a notice in a newspaper. Consult with a family law attorney in your area. That person will point you in the right direction.
As Ms. Charles stated, you can still get a divorce even if you don't know your spouse's whereabouts. Under Florida law, you will have to take certain steps to satisfy the court's notice requirements. It will take a little longer in your case because you have to give your spouse a certain number of days, per the statute, to respond to the notice. Any family law attorney in your area should be able to help you with this.
Yes, ultimately if you are unable to locate your spouse you will be able to file Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure Form 12.913(b) - an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, detailing what efforts you have made to locate him. Then you should be able to use Form 12.913(a) - Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage and pay to have the Notice published in an approved newspaper for 4 weeks in a row (or posted at the Courthouse if permitted).
If he files no response within 20 days of the last run of the notice, you should be able to have the Clerk's office enter a default against him, which will allow you to set an uncontested final hearing on your divorce. All of this is done all of the time, though there are some restrictions as to what forms of relief may be offered by such a method (i.e. you will not be able to obtain a judgment for alimony against him). I highly recommend you seek a consultation with a Family Law attorney in your area for guidance and assistance before you begin.
FYI, these forms are available for free (to download) from www.flcourts.org - just look at the top middle of the page for "Self Help Family Law Forms" and scroll through the list - they all include instructions and are pretty easy to follow.
Frederick L. Pollack, P.A.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
412 E. Madison St., Suite 915
Tampa, FL 33602-4617
Tel: (813) 228-0400
Fax: (813) 228-0600
A weekly guide with tips and legal advice for each stage of the process.