Can I still get a divorce in Tennessee if I cannot locate my spouse?

In this video attorney Curt Runger answers the question of is it still possible to get a divorce in the state of Tennessee if you don’t know where your spouse is. View the video below or see the transcript to see Curt’s answer to this difficult question.

Hi my name is Curt Runger and I’m the managing member of Douglass & Runger, PLLC, which is a Memphis, Tennessee law firm. We assist our divorce clients by helping them navigate through the emotional and difficult divorce process and ensuring that we protect what is most important to them: their minor children and their assets. 

One of the questions that I routinely receive from people who are looking into divorces is: ”I don’t know where my husband or wife is…we’ve been separated for years and I haven’t seen them. Am I going to be able to get a divorce?” And the answer to that question is yes, you’re going to be able to get a divorce, even if you do not know where your spouse lives. However, the way that we have to proceed under that scenario is file a complaint for divorce first. Then if you do not know where your spouse is because you haven’t seen him or her in forever and you’ve been separated from them, that you’ve tried to look them up on social media you gone to their last known address and you don’t know where they are. If that’s the case then what we have to do is after we file the complaint for divorce. We have to file a motion in court, and the motion that we file in front of the judge is essentially asking the judge to allow you to serve your spouse via publication in the local legal newspaper. 

So a lot of times judges want to know what steps have you taken to try to locate your spouse. So, some are more strict than others, but you will be able to eventually have the court approve the motion allowing you to serve your spouse by publication in the local legal newspaper. Now, what happens next is the notice of your divorce action will be published and the Daily News which is Memphis’ legal newspaper and it will run in the Daily News for four consecutive weeks, and the order of publication will essentially provide a deadline for which your spouse could actually file something in court. Now, the likelihood that they actually see it is slim because we don’t know where they are, but the next step is once that deadline passes, we actually have to file another motion, and go in front of the judge again. And we file a motion for what’s called a default judgment. And basically, that’s essentially saying hey judge. You know the time period for my spouse to answer this divorce complaint is passed. I haven’t filed anything in court. So we need to take a default judgment and everything in my divorce complaint including the allegations that are set forth for why I’m entitled to a divorce should be taken as true. So then the judge will actually grant an order of default. And then we have to wait another 30 days and then what we can do is actually schedule your divorce matter to be heard in front of the judge now that will entail you coming down to court to testify about why you should be entitled to divorce, and what you would like the court to award you. But not only do you actually have to come down but you also have to bring another witness with you. So witness can be a family member or someone who is familiar with your circumstances and can provide an extra layer of testimony basically to the judge to corroborate your testimony. 

Now, the one thing about. The one thing about not getting personal service on your spouse and having to serve them via publication is that you cannot get a money judgment against them or you’re not going to be able to receive alimony or spousal support, under those circumstances but you can be granted a divorce. And you can be awarded the property that is in your possession. And if you have minor children. The court will approve the terms of your parenting plan or should you have any other questions about the divorce process, please do not hesitate to contact me, give me a call at 901-385-1358. Thank you.

If you have any further questions do not hesitate to call Curt or his team at Douglass & Runger, PLLC at (901) 388-5805 relating to other questions you may have about the divorce process.

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