The divorce process can be a complicated and overwhelming experience even when both spouses are present and accounted for. But what happens when one spouse completely severs ties with the family and runs away to parts unknown? This leaves the other spouse responsible for countless financial and marital obligations.
Fortunately, you can still get divorced in Iowa even if your spouse has disappeared or moved out of state. There are just a few additional procedures and protocols that need to be observed before your divorce can be finalized.
What Is Marital Abandonment?
Iowa law recognizes two types of marital abandonment: actual abandonment and constructive abandonment. Actual abandonment is when a spouse voluntarily packs up their things, leaves the family home, and has no intention of ever returning. Constructive abandonment, on the other hand, is when one spouse uses cruel methods to pressure their partner into abandoning the marriage.
Acts and behaviors that can force a spouse out of the family home include:
- Physical, mental or emotional abuse
- Refusing to provide financial support
- Withholding sex
- Intentional failure to perform marital responsibilities
To the court, a spouse that endangers the health, mental well-being, or safety of their partner has already “left the marriage,” a key element in defining constructive abandonment. However, Iowa is a no-fault divorce state, which means that acts of marital abandonment can’t be used as grounds for divorce. Even so, proof of marital abandonment can influence determinations regarding asset and property division, child custody, and financial support options.
A spouse can also face criminal charges for marital abandonment if they suddenly refuse to provide care, financial support, and protection to any minor children or a sick spouse.
Divorcing Your Missing Spouse
The first step in divorcing your missing spouse is to make a “good faith effort” to root out their location. This isn’t likely your first time playing detective, but this is more about proving to the court that you’re making a sincere effort to deliver the petition and summons. You can start your investigation by contacting your spouse’s friends, family, and coworkers.
If your spouse still can’t be found, you can file an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This form needs to list each and every effort you made to reach out to your absent spouse. You also need to get this document signed and notarized because it functions as your legal testimony.
Your next step is to file a Motion and Affidavit to Serve by Publication (FL-107) and an Original Notice by Publication (FL-108). Once you’ve received the approval of the court, you can publish a notice in the legal notices section of a local newspaper for three weeks. At this point, your absent spouse has 20 days to file a response. However, if your spouse still doesn’t come forward or take action, the court can enter a default judgment and approve your divorce.
Retain Experienced Legal Counsel Today
If your divorce case involves marital abandonment, contact the West Des Moines divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw today. When your financial stability and quality of life are on the line, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Our experienced lawyers can help you accurately complete and file each form associated with this complicated legal process. No matter the complexity of your case, you can rely on our legal team to represent your best interests and help you prepare for the next chapter of your life.
Call The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw at (515) 200-7571 to schedule a free case evaluation.