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Can an ex parte divorce end a marriage to a missing spouse?

Marriages end for many reasons, and couples in New York have several options when the spouses decide to go their separate ways. A divorce can be full of contention and even involve bitter courtroom battles. It can also be amicable, with a settlement reached through communication and compromise. However, unusual circumstances sometimes lead to one spouse filing for divorce on his or her own when the other spouse's whereabouts are unknown and/or the spouse does not respond to the notice of a divorce filing.

Under certain conditions, ex parte divorces are allowed by New York courts. This is a divorce in which only one spouse appears before the court after meeting the residency requirements under the laws of that state. This process is more complicated than it may sound, because the filing spouse may have to provide proof that all possible attempts to reach the other spouse failed. Moreover, when there are children involved, child custody and support may complicate the proceedings.

An example that may lead to an ex parte divorce filing is a married couple who lives in another state. The husband is promoted but has to relocate to New York, and the couple decides that he should go ahead and get settled -- with the wife following later. In the following months, the wife becomes involved with another man and decides rather to move away with her new love. The husband loses all contact with his wife, and her whereabouts are unknown. When the time comes that the husband meets the residency requirements of New York, he can file an ex parte divorce that, once granted, will be valid in all states.

Although this may be a solution for a similar problem experienced by a New York resident, it is a complicated legal option that may be difficult to navigate without legal counsel. When considering a divorce from an absent spouse, the most appropriate step may be to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. A skilled family law lawyer will know the legal requirements of an ex parte divorce filing, including the residency requirements for filing. After assessing the client's unique circumstances, all possible options will be examined to achieve the best possible outcome.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is Ex Parte Divorce?", Christopher Coble, Oct. 20, 2016

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