Sometimes the case comes up where a couple has been separated for years and a spouse seeking a divorce has no idea where the other spouse is. How does the court handle this situation?
In Minnesota, if one spouse claims irreconcilable differences and that the marriage cannot be saved, the court will grant a divorce—you do not need the consent of the other spouse. However, the other spouse is entitled to have notice that the proceedings are going on so that they can be involved in the process.
Normally, the spouse asking for the divorce must have the other party “personally served”, meaning any other individual over the age of 18 that is not a party to the divorce must hand them the initial paperwork and let them know that a divorce proceeding is underway. If that party cannot be found to be personally served, the party seeking the divorce is able to ask the court for permission to serve them by “alternate means”. Alternate means would include sending copies of the documents to the last known address(es) of the spouse.
Notice by Publication
Another alternative is “notice by publication.” In this method, the spouse seeking the divorce publishes notice of the divorce in a legal newspaper in the county where the other spouse is thought to reside. The spouse has a certain amount of time after the notice is published to come forward if they are interested in participating in the process.
Often when the other party cannot be found for personal service, the case proceeds by default. The court can finalize the divorce and divide property, subject to some restrictions, without the responding party ever being involved. If you cannot find your spouse and are seeking a divorce in Minnesota, it is helpful to speak with an attorney about your options.