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What Happens if My Spouse Flees During Our Pending Divorce?

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Navigating the divorce process is challenging under the best circumstances, but it becomes even more complicated when your future ex spouse is missing or uncooperative.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta (CHM), we specialize in handling such complex situations, ensuring your rights are protected and the process moves forward smoothly. Our experienced family law attorneys provide the guidance and support you need during this difficult time, using their expertise to address issues like non-response, relocation, and marital abandonment. 

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What Happens if My Spouse Flees During Our Pending Divorce?

What Happens if My Ex Doesn’t Respond to Divorce Papers?

In Arizona, when one spouse files for divorce, the other spouse must be served with the divorce papers and allowed to respond.

You can request a default judgment if your ex-spouse doesn’t respond to the divorce papers within the specified time frame.

  • Service of Process: Ensure that your ex-spouse has been properly served. This is a critical step, as improper service can invalidate the proceedings.
  • Time Frame for Response: Under Arizona law, your ex-spouse has 20 days to respond if they are within or 30 days out of state.
  • Requesting Default: You can file a default application if the response period lapses without any answer. Once the default is entered, your case can proceed without your ex-spouse’s input.

If your ex-spouse does not respond, the court may grant the divorce based on your proposed terms, including property division, child custody, and support. This streamlined process is advantageous in cases where the other party is uncooperative or unreachable.

Pending divorce

What Should I Do if My Former Spouse Has Relocated to a Different State While Our Divorce Is Still Pending?

Relocating to another state during a pending divorce can complicate the process but doesn’t halt it.

Arizona courts maintain jurisdiction over the divorce case as long as proper procedures are followed.

  • Maintaining Jurisdiction: Arizona can retain jurisdiction over the divorce if the filing spouse meets residency requirements (A.R.S. § 25-312).
  • Serving Papers Out of State: You must follow the rules for serving divorce papers out of state. This typically involves using certified mail or a process server in the state where your ex-spouse now resides.
  • Long-Arm Statute: Arizona’s long-arm statute allows the state to exert jurisdiction over individuals who have left the state but maintain significant connections to Arizona, such as owning property or having children.

Arizona courts can address issues like property division and spousal support even with an ex-spouse in another state.

Child custody matters may require additional steps if the child resides in a different state and involves the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Can You Leave the Country During A Pending Divorce Case?

Leaving the country during a pending divorce can raise several legal concerns, particularly regarding jurisdiction and the ability to attend court hearings.

The following steps should be taken if you plan to leave the country during a divorce: 

  • Notifying the Court: Inform the court and your attorney about plans to leave the country. Failure to do so is an attempt to evade the proceedings.
  • Temporary Orders: Before you leave, ensure that any temporary orders regarding child custody, visitation, and support are in place.
  • Communication: Maintain open lines of communication with your attorney and the court. Virtual appearances may be possible for certain hearings, but confirming this beforehand is crucial.

Leaving the country doesn’t absolve you from complying with court orders.

Non-compliance can result in severe consequences, including contempt of court.

What If I Can’t Locate My Spouse and Want to Get a Divorce?

In some divorce cases, one spouse may be unable to locate the other, raising challenges that are not impossible.

Arizona law provides specific steps to address this scenario, even in cases of marital abandonment.

  • Diligent Search: The court requires you to diligently search for your spouse. This may include contacting friends and family, checking with the post office, using social media, and hiring a private investigator if necessary.
  • Service by Publication: If your diligent search fails, Arizona law (A.R.S. § 25-311) allows for service by publication. This involves publishing a notice of the divorce proceedings in a newspaper that will likely reach your spouse.
  • Default Judgment: After service by publication, your spouse has a limited time to respond (typically 30 days). You can request a default judgment to finalize the divorce if there is no response.

Marital abandonment

Marital Abandonment Considerations

If your spouse has abandoned you and you cannot locate them, the court will take this into account.

Marital abandonment can impact the court’s decisions regarding the division of property, spousal support, and child custody.

  • Property Division: The court may award a larger share of marital property to the spouse who was abandoned, mainly if the abandoning spouse has made no contributions to the marital estate.
  • Spousal Support: In cases of marital abandonment, the court may order spousal support to ensure the abandoned spouse’s financial stability.
  • Child Custody: If children are involved, the court prioritizes their best interests. Marital abandonment by one parent can significantly influence custody and visitation arrangements.

Despite the challenges of locating an absent spouse, Arizona law ensures you can still proceed with your divorce and protect your rights. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 5.8% of marriages in the United States end due to marital abandonment or desertion. This highlights the importance of understanding your legal options if faced with this situation​ (​​.

For personalized assistance, our team at Colburn Hintze Maletta is ready to help.

Consult a Divorce Attorney from CHM Law Today

When an ex-spouse flees or relocates during a divorce, it complicates the legal process but doesn’t stop it.

Arizona laws provide mechanisms to handle these situations, ensuring your rights are protected, and the divorce can proceed. Consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer is essential for accurate guidance and representation.

Contact Colburn Hintze Maletta at 602-825-2500 to schedule a consultation today. 

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