One of the first steps in a divorce in Iowa is serving your spouse with the dissolution of marriage papers. That means that a sheriff or process server delivers the documents to your spouse. But what if the process server or sheriff shows up at your spouse's last known residence and they're not there? Can you still get a divorce without your spouse having received the necessary documents?
Yes. If you cannot locate your spouse, you can still get a divorce. However, simply saying that the papers couldn't be served on your spouse isn't enough to allow the proceedings to move forward. You must take additional steps before a judge will sign the final decree.
Making a Good Faith Effort to Locate Your Spouse
If the process server or sheriff is unable to get the divorce papers to your spouse, you must then make a good faith effort to find them. Your search must be diligent and not simply a quick check on the Internet to see if any information on your spouse pops up. You may also need to reach out to friends or family members to see if they have any information regarding your spouse's whereabouts.
Publishing a Notice
If your attempts to locate your spouse aren't fruitful, you may then publish a notice in the newspaper. You must ask the court for permission before posting it in the paper.
If the court grants your request, you must allow the legal publication to run for at least three weeks.
Spouse Doesn't Respond to Notice
Similar to when you serve your spouse with divorce documents, when you publish a notice in the paper, they generally have 20 days to answer (the timeframe can vary depending on your specific situation). To answer means that they send a written response to the court concerning your request for a divorce. The 20-day response period begins after the last publication in the paper.
Divorce by Default
If your spouse does not respond to the publication in the newspaper, after the 20-day waiting period is up, you can petition for a default divorce. When the court allows a default divorce, it may grant, without your spouse's input, what you asked for concerning matters such as child custody and asset or property division.
Waiting Period for Your Divorce to Be Final
Although your spouse has 20 days to respond to the petition for divorce, your divorce won't be final upon the 21st day. Iowa law provides that a divorce decree cannot be ordered until 90 days have passed. The 90-day waiting period begins either on the day your spouse was served with the divorce papers or after the final day of publication notice in the newspaper.
Divorce proceedings are complicated matters, requiring sound knowledge of all the processes involved in them. If you are seeking a divorce in West Des Moines, it can be beneficial to have an attorney on your side throughout. They can inform you of your rights and obligations and facilitate an efficient process.
If your spouse does respond to your request for a dissolution of marriage, a lawyer can also protect your best interests as they work with you to settle crucial divorce-related matters.
For the legal guidance and counsel you need for your divorce, contact The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw at (515) 200-7571 today.