Filing for default divorce is an option if you cannot find your spouse.
How can I divorce my spouse if I cannot find him?
The divorce process starts in the same manner it would if you knew exactly where your husband lives. You can file a Complaint for Divorce but you should indicate the last known address for your husband on the Complaint. The Court will process this Complaint and the difficulty starts when you are required to serve him via original service of process. You should send the Complaint, all other papers you filed, and the Writ of Summons to his last known address via Certified Mail Restricted Delivery. When it comes back "undeliverable," have someone drive by to see if he lives there.
Remember that you have only 60 days to serve him so while you make other efforts to find him as described in the section below you may need to ask the Court Clerk to ReIssue the Writ of Summons. When that happens you will get another 60 days to serve him or to try.
When you file for divorce, you need to make all reasonable efforts to find your spouse.
Maryland Rule 2-121 and 2-122 governs Alternate Service in Maryland. Before the Court agrees to serve the opposing side via "alternate service" you must demonstrate that you tried all reasonable efforts to find him. For example, you must call all phone numbers you have for him, call his friends and family to ask about his whereabouts, email him, send certified letters, do an internet search (MVA records, google, etc.), ask employer and former employer, looked him up in the phone book and other internet search engines and records. It is not necessary to hire a private investigator or pay for a people locator service but it helps. You could also contact the local child support enforcement agency, police department, on-line inmate locator, and on-line military service member locator.
The more efforts you make the greater the chance that the Court will grant your request. You can get a sample Motion for Alternate Service.
What happens when the Court grants my Motion for Alternate Service?
The Court Clerk will explain the process but generally it involves sending a check payable to the Sheriff's Office so the Sheriff can post notice of your Complaint for Divorce in a designated area of the courthouse.
This is called Notice by Posting and it is a relic of a time when people would gather in the town square and everyone would see the notices posted on the courthouse door. Nevertheless, this is still the law in Maryland.
After 30 days (if in state) or 60 days (if he probably lives out of state), you should file a Request for an Order of Default, but make sure that you iinclude an Affidavit of Non-Military Service. Under the Maryland Rules this Request will be granted. However, once that Order is granted your husband will still have another 30 days to vacate the Default if he appears.
Default Divorce Hearing
Often the Court automatically sets in a default divorce hearing sometime beyond 30 days after the Order for Default. If not, you should file a Request for a hearing.
At the hearing you still need to prove everything you are alleging and everything you are asking for. Likewise, you will need to bring a corroborating witness for the divorce and any documents you need for child support.
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