Can I File for Divorce in Minnesota if I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is?

May 16, 2013  |  Elizabeth A. Schading

Sometimes a divorce happens because a spouse simply abandons the family. Sometimes families start with a separation, only for a spouse to go MIA. Sometimes, a spouse even hides from another spouse, thinking that this is the best way to avoid being served with divorce papers.
However, you can get a divorce even if you don’t know where your spouse is. Minnesota allows for service of divorce papers through alternate means when all reasonable avenues have been tried to find and serve your spouse through normal means.


Service by publication requires a court order, but the order will be granted if you provide facts sufficient to prove that you cannot find your spouse.
Once the papers have been served through alternate means the divorce will continue. Your spouse has a certain amount of time to file an Answer to your petition for divorce.
If your spouse fails to file an Answer then the courts will usually move forward with a “default” Judgment of Divorce. The issues of the divorce will be settled, most likely as you request, and you will no longer be married.
If your spouse is missing you should not assume that your divorce will be uncontested, however. Strange things can happen at the last minute. This is not the time to reach for a DIY divorce.
You could add or omit provisions in your Petition for Divorce that could cause you problems later and that will be difficult and expensive to fix after the fact, especially if your spouse returns years later and contests them. It’s best to get a divorce lawyer, even if you think you’re never going to see your spouse again.
Your lawyer will help you write your Summons and Petition in clear legal language that leaves nothing out, offering you the best chances of getting everything you need to continue your life after the judge awards the default judgment. If your spouse does reappear and file a surprise Answer before the clock runs out then you’ll be ready.
Barna, Guzy & Steffen has served the Minneapolis area for over 75 years. We’ve handled all kinds of divorces in Minnesota, from the routine to the strange. We can help you make sure that your divorce proceeds as smoothly as possible by offering you compassionate, expert support throughout the entire process. Call our family law attorneys today.