Am I Divorced?

The question is all too frequent. Am I still married? How can I find out if my spouse divorced me?

If you and your spouse have been separated for a long time, the simple answer is that there is no easy way to confirm whether your spouse ever divorced you. You can check easily enough, of course, in the court for the area where you live. But what about the area where your spouse lives? And if you have lost touch with your spouse, how can you know where he or she has lived?

Unfortunately, the solution is to err on the side of safety. If you’re not sure that you and your spouse are still married, and it’s important to you to be single (for example, if you want to remarry), you have no choice but to get a divorce, even if you learn later that it was redundant.

Getting a divorce when you can’t locate your spouse takes a little extra time, but shouldn’t be inordinately expensive. You will typically follow this sequence:

  • You will file for divorce and persuade the court that you cannot after reasonable diligence locate your spouse. The court will then permit you to serve your spouse by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where you live.
  • You will publish a notice in that newspaper (typically for four consecutive weeks), providing pertinent information that your spouse could use to respond to your divorce complaint if he or she read it — and of course, there’s a REALLY SLIM chance your spouse will read it.
  • After the notice runs for four consecutive weeks, you are deemed to have accomplished service of process on your spouse. Now you must wait ANOTHER 30 days. At the end of that 30 days, you will file an application for default on the basis of your spouse’s failure to respond.
  • The court will set a hearing. At that hearing, you will provide testimony that confirms the court’s jurisdiction as well as the grounds for divorce. Then the court will likely sign a Final Judgment of Divorce.
  • There are some things you can do and some things you cannot do when you obtain your divorce by publication. You can get custody of a child, for example, and you obtain custody of property. Typically, however, you cannot get an award of child support until you actually get personal service on your spouse. Most courts are also reluctant to transfer property of a spouse unless and until that spouse has been served personally.

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    201 comments

    1. Deborah says:

      Hello,
      I married in the state of California and filed for legal separation in the early ’80’s. I then filed for divorce right after. I was told by the courts my divorce would be final in six months. I fled the state of California to get away from my soon to be ex-husband as he was a dangerous man. I assumed after six months my divorce was final but I never received a divorce decree. I thought I didn’t receive them because I had fled without submitting a change of address for fear I would be found. Now I want to remarry (at 59) and sent for my divorce papers. I received information indicating the divorce may not have been finalized due to a missed court date? I was never told I had to attend another court date. I cannot believe this many years has gone by and nothing ever came up indicating I may still be married. Can I file to complete the original divorce or do I need to start over? Can I do this without the other party finding out where I now live?
      Thank you so much!
      Deborah

      • Lee Borden says:

        In all likelihood, you’ll need to start over. When you do, you’ll need to show that you have done all you can to find your spouse. Talk to your lawyer about protecting your address from your spouse.

    2. Desiree says:

      My husband left me 8 yrs ago.a female came to my work one day and left a paperwork for me through my co-worker. It was divorce papers. Can that be considered as me getting served even if i didn’t see who droped off the divorce papers or even if the divorce papers were not handed directly to me? Living in california.

      • Lee Borden says:

        I can’t speak for CA. In my state the process server must hand the documents directly to the person who is served, not to a co-worker or family member.

    3. Vanessa Edwards says:

      My husband insist he got an annulment. He states we are no longer married. I have been very I’ll dx. with breast cancer in 2014. I simply need closure. He is in Virginia I am in New York. I deal with anxiety because he doesn’t tell the truth. My quality of life has been adversely affected. Thank you I need some peace.

      • Lee Borden says:

        If he got an annulment, it would be filed in either VA or NY. You can check in NY, and if you have a buddy in VA, ask them to check there. If your husband has in fact NOT filed what he said he did, you certainly can file for divorce in VA if that’s what you want.

    4. Ana says:

      A friend of mine is married to two different women. He hasn’t seen either one of them in a little over 10 years. He has no clue of where they could be.
      Now, he wants to purpose to his long time girlfriend.

      Is there a reason to believe he could still be married?

      • Lee Borden says:

        Yes, there’s every reason to believe he could still be married. Divorce doesn’t happen with the passage of time. Somebody has to file for it.

        • Ana says:

          That makes sense. I guess he’ll just have to go follow up and try to divorce them both.
          Hopefully they can be found

    5. Virginia says:

      Hi, i have been legally merried for 13 years but seperated for 11 years.
      8 in witch he has been in prison. Doing a term of 15 to 25 years. Does he have rights to fight a divorce, and what would be the best way to go about this. Thank you any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    6. Rani raj says:

      I married my husband in 1987 i have one child boy from my husband my child born in 1988 my husband and i seprated from 2005 to onwords 2017 reason dangers enviorment from12 years we did’nt see or meet eachother is this divorce

      • Lee Borden says:

        Because your English is so poor, I recommend you have a friend with better English skills help you when you post on message boards. I think you’re asking whether you are divorced simply by being separated from your husband for the last 12 years. If so, the answer is no. There is no divorce that happens automatically simply because spouses split up and never see each other. If you want to be unmarried, you still need to get a divorce.

    7. Sophie says:

      I divorced my ex husband, within the papers I agreed to not marry for two years after final divorce paper. Can I get into trouble if I do marry within the two years? Will my new marriage stand if I marry within the two years?

      • Lee Borden says:

        Wow, Sophie. That’s a new one for me. I’ve not heard of anyone inserting a provision like this in their divorce documents before, so I’m not sure whether it would be enforceable. Specific enforceability would depend as well on the domestic relations laws in your state.

        I would think that, given that discretion is the better part of valor, it would be prudent to comply with the restriction. Also, in general, I usually encourage people to wait longer than they think necessary before forming another serious relationship, so the two year moratorium may actually prove helpful even though it seems so burdensome right now.

    8. lindsay chapman says:

      My partner has been separated from wife for 20 years with no contact now found out shes remarried with no knowledge to my partner they were ever divorced

    9. Marisela Caratagena says:

      I was married over 20 years.. I was severely depressed and still suffer from depression.. I was never served.. How do I know if that was legal.. I had no say so in regards to division of property.. He never remarried and he had 2 children while we were still legally married.. I’m from the Detroit, MI area..,Please help me!!

      • Lee Borden says:

        Go to any courthouse in MI and ask to search the divorce records. Search by your full name and your husband’s. If there’s a divorce filed for the two of you in MI, you should see it. If you want to look at the actual documents (rather than just a list of them), you may need to go to the court where the divorce was filed. The clerk can tell you for sure.

    10. Beatrice Maes says:

      I filed for divorce in 1995 we got back together a year latter but my “” so called husband found the papers that we signed I did see a case # on those papers All I have are copies of the papers but they do not have any numbers (court docket ) or signatures. How can I find out? B M

      • Lee Borden says:

        Look at the documents you have and identify the state and county shown. If you have a buddy in that county, ask him or her to go to the courthouse and search for the filing. There will be a docket sheet showing the documents filed. If the divorce was granted in that county, your buddy should be able to see (and photograph with his or her smartphone) the decree and other documents.

    11. Karen says:

      My husband and I are married but we have no sexual relationships for 2 years now. We are still living together because of our 2 children I guess. I don’t want a divorce yet but can I get a separation?

      • Lee Borden says:

        Yes, although you are likely to spend a great deal of money in the process. It might be more prudent to spend a fraction of what you would spend on pursuing an adversarial legal separation and engage a good counselor to help you work through your options. You may decide to reconcile, to divorce, or even just do nothing and continue living in the same household. And you will keep most of your money intact for whatever you eventually decide is your permanent strategy.

    12. Jozilyn Diaz says:

      My divorced was signed by a judge in Aug 2016 but be have been separated since Feb 2013. I didn’t file, my ex did. He sent me a picture of his receipts and such but I have yet received my decree. We have both planned on getting the divorce and I was very eager to sign the papers. I am currently in another relationship and in this relationship we have a child. We are looking forward to getting married but I need proof that I am divorced… how can I find out that information?

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