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Filing for divorce with a missing spouse

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2021 | Family Law

When filing for divorce in North Carolina, every person must notify his or her spouse of the action. In most cases, this occurs by delivery service or mail.

However, if a person does not know where his or her spouse is or is having trouble locating him or her, then there is one last option. Service of the divorce petition is mandatory, so if a person is unable to serve his or her spouse, the North Carolina Judicial Branch explains he or she may try service by publication.


In this situation, publication means posting a notice in the newspaper. It will serve as a public notice, which means the spouse has access to it and the means by which to see it.

These days, most notices placed in newspapers will also appear in the paper’s online publication, which results in even further reach to the potential audience.


The North Carolina Judicial Branch further notes that publication as a way of serving a divorce notice is the last resort option. A person should try all other methods of service first.

A judge must see proof that a person is unable to locate the spouse before he or she allows for publication. There is a high threshold of proof you must show, including extensive searches and work to try to find him or her.

Only when a judge gives approval can a person use this method. He or she must put the notice in a newspaper in the county of the spouse’s last known residence. The notice must run in the paper for three weeks, appearing at least once a week.

Remember service by publication is not always an option. It may be better to try to find a missing spouse instead of relying on this option.