How Do I Get a Divorce When My Spouse Has Disappeared?
In divorce proceedings, procedure requires that the spouse is made aware of the divorce proceedings being taken out, giving him or her the opportunity to participate in the proceedings. However, clients often come to us after a spouse has disappeared for a number of years, without any contact details or forwarding address.
Does this mean that if a spouse has disappeared without any trace of his whereabouts or contact details, a divorce cannot take place?
No. A divorce can still take place without successfully contacting the missing spouse, but it must first be shown to the court that the person initiating the divorce proceedings has tried and exhausted all reasonable ways to contact or locate his or her missing spouse.
To do this, the person is that is intending to initiate the divorce must take out an application for dispensation of service, pursuant to the main divorce application. The support in such an application would focus on the attempts by the person seeking the divorce, to contact and locate his or her missing spouse. These would include contacting known associates and family members of the missing spouse, and checking alternate addresses that the missing spouse may be living at, to name a few. A successful application for dispensation of service then does away with the procedural requirements mentioned above.
Additionally, a spouse disappearing can be sufficient reason to support an application for a divorce, so long as it has been more than 2 years since the departure of the missing spouse. This reason for divorce is also known as “desertion”, which must have happened against the wishes of the person taking out the application for divorce.
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