Your Family Matters

Filing for divorce in New York when your spouse is missing

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2023 | Family Law

According to, there were roughly 2.2 divorces in New York per 1,000 residents in 2021. If you have chosen to get a divorce, you know that the road is often riddled with challenges and emotions, and you face even greater challenges if you cannot find your spouse.

If you are in New York and want to file for divorce, but your spouse’s whereabouts remain unknown, you may feel trapped. However, you should not despair. New York law offers provisions for situations like yours.

Initiate the divorce process

The first step towards divorce is to file a divorce petition, also known as a Summons with Notice, with the court. You must then serve these papers to your spouse. However, if you cannot locate your spouse, this presents a problem. In such a situation, you have to show the court you made sincere efforts to find your spouse.

The diligent search

Before the court allows an alternative form of service, you must perform a diligent search. This search includes actions like contacting your spouse’s relatives, friends and last known employers, checking with the post office for forwarding addresses and investigating tax records.

Affidavit of diligent search

Once you complete the diligent search, you will need to document your efforts in an affidavit of diligent search. This document is your written declaration to the court that you made a serious attempt to locate your spouse.

Service by publication

After submitting the affidavit of diligent search and obtaining court approval, you can use service by publication. It involves publishing the divorce summons in a court-approved newspaper for a certain period, usually once a week for three weeks.

Proceeding with the divorce

After completing the publication, and if your spouse does not respond, you can proceed with the divorce. The court can grant you a default divorce, effectively dissolving your marriage.

With patience and diligence, you can easily navigate this complex process and begin a new chapter of your life.