I do not know where my spouse is, does this stop me from getting divorced?
Not necessarily although there are additional procedures that need to be followed in order to be in a position to make progress.
The petition should normally be sent to the respondent at his/her last known address. If the respondent is known to still be working for the same employer as he/she was during the marriage, or the respondent’s email address is known, then an application to the Court can be made for permission to serve the petition by other means eg at the work address / by email. There will be a fee of £50 for this application.
If the names and addresses of the respondent’s family members or friends are known to you then letters can be sent to them asking them if they will pass correspondence on. Similarly, requests can be made to the last known employer, any banks if the account number is known, any other organisations that the person belonged to etc. They do not need to reply. The main thing is that you have made every effort to try and locate them.
The services of an enquiry agent may also be utilised however this could be a costly exercise if the petitioner can only provide limited information on the respondent. A petitioner is advised to ring around to see what can be done and for how much.
Other methods that have been used to try and notify a respondent of proceedings is an advert in the local paper (if the general area of where they live is known).
An application can also be made to the local divorce unit asking them to conduct a search of government departments. There will be a fee of £50.
If any of these methods enable the respondent to be served but then he/she does not send the Acknowledgement of Service back, then all the correspondence involved can be used as evidence for an Application for Deemed Service. If the Court is satisfied, upon considering the efforts made and the evidence provided, that all effort has been made and it is probable that the respondent has the petition and is simply ignoring it, then the Court will issue an order stating the date that service on the respondent was deemed to have taken place and this can then be used in an application for the first decree of divorce, decree nisi, and the divorce proceedings can continue.
The Court can also be asked to make an order confirming that service of the petition on the respondent can be dispensed with, ie service is not required, if it has been impossible to trace the respondent. Again if this order is made it can be used to support the application for decree nisi.
These applications are made on the same form. The form is headed as an application to dispense with service but at the end states “or other order as the Court deems fit”.
These applications can also be used where the Respondent’s address is known, he has failed to respond to the divorce and service by the Court bailiff or process server has been unsuccessful.