Divorce solicitor Kate Brooks tackles this very common question in this brief video.
People often ask me what they have to do, if they have been separated for some time for example, and they want to start divorce proceedings but they simply don’t know where their estranged spouse is. The reason this is important is because in order to start a divorce, you actually need to be able to serve divorce papers on your spouse, and generally speaking you need to know where they are in order to achieve that.
The first step that I will always say to people is to go away and do a little bit of homework yourself. There are a lot of services online to try and find out where people are; access to electoral roles, perhaps speaking to your spouse’s family members and so forth and sometimes that is enough and they will come back and they will say “I have found him or her”.
If that hasn’t been successful, the next stage is to approach a professional agency to do something called a location report. They are quite cheap and they are often very effective. These days, recognised agencies have access to consumer credit databases and unless someone is really trying to hide, it is quite easy to find out where they are and then you can just proceed in the normal way.
In 9 out of 10 cases, that usually works. But on the rare occasions where that doesn’t work, you have already helped yourself because you have started to demonstrate to a Judge that you have done everything you can to try and find your spouse. Because effectively, that is what you have got to do – if you haven’t been able to find your spouse, you can make an application to the Court to say that service has been ‘deemed’, ie you have done absolutely everything you can to try and find them but you were unable to do so.
Even if somebody is abroad, there are sister agencies that can do this kind of thing for you as well. Ultimately a Judge will allow you to get divorced if you can demonstrate that you have done everything that you can and then the divorce will proceed as normal.