skip to Main Content

Can I get divorced if I don’t know where my ex-partner lives?

Divorces are legal proceedings and there is a fundamental rule in all legal proceedings that the responding party has a right to know the case against them. Courts have embodied this in the requirement for the Respondent to return an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ after they have been issued with the divorce petition. The way that this occurs is that when a divorce petition is received by the Court, the Court will serve it on the Respondent by posting it first class, along with the blank Acknowledgement of Service, to the address given in the petition. So, can I get divorced if I don’t know where my ex-partner lives?

If the Court does not receive the Acknowledgement from the Respondent, and is unable to deem that he/she has been served with the divorce documentation, the divorce cannot proceed to the next stage – the Decree Nisi.

What can you do if you do not know your ex’s address?

There are reasonable enquiries that can be made by you and by the Court. The Court has powers under the Family Procedure Rules 2010 to request a search for his/her address in the records of the Department of Work and Pensions or the Passport Service.

If you believe that your ex-partner has moved abroad but you do not have their address, matters can be more complex and it would be prudent to obtain advice from a legal practitioner in the other jurisdiction.

In the circumstances where all reasonable searches have been made and the other party has simply disappeared without a trace, there is an option to apply to the High Court for a declaration that they are presumed dead. These declarations can be made under section 1 of the Presumption of Death Act 2013 – but the test is a difficult one to meet. The Court must be satisfied that the Respondent has died or has not been known to be alive for a period of at least 7 years. The declaration ends the marriage without the need for formal divorce proceedings. Any property that was jointly held is automatically vested entirely in the sole name of the living party.

If a declaration is made and the party presumed dead re-emerges, that person can appeal the declaration. If successful, the declaration is voided but this will not reinstate the marriage, nor will it automatically return any property into joint names. Due to this, the Courts will be very strict about the circumstances in which it will make a declaration. It also has a wider significance, as succinctly put by Judge Paul Matthews in Greathead v Greathead (Presumption of Death) [2017] EWHC 1154 (Ch), as it ‘operates as against the whole world, and not just between the parties’.

There is, therefore, very little case law surrounding this. In the Family Division of the High Court, a declaration was recently made on 2nd March 2018 in the case of EA v NA. The facts are as follows:

  1. Mrs EA had not seen nor heard from her husband Mr NA since he left the family home in 2009.
  2. She made extensive enquiries, including online via social media and by speaking with his family members in Nottingham, but was told nothing other than that he had moved back to Iraq, where he was a citizen.
  3. Mrs EA alleges that in 2010 she was contacted by a person who purported to be a relative of Mr NA’s. This person told her that he had died in Iraq and had been buried in accordance with local custom within two hours of his death. This was the only information that she was given and she was not told the precise circumstances of the death.
  4. The Judge commented that this evidence was circumspect, but the declaration was nonetheless made, on the basis that Mr NA had not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years.

Whilst the circumstances of this case are extremely rare, it is much more common for a prospective divorcee to not know their former spouse’s current address.

If you have any questions in relation to ‘Can I get divorced if I don’t know where my ex-partner lives?’ or for more information and advice on your specific circumstances, please contact us.

Having graduated in July 2017 with a first class honours degree in law from the University of Bedfordshire, Holly has since been exploring her interest in Family Law. She is currently undertaking her postgraduate LPC and masters course to qualify as a family solicitor. Holly joined Hawkins Family Law in August 2017. She has previously volunteered with public legal advice services and currently is enjoying a new challenge having recently begun a paralegal role at Hawkins Family Law.

More Posts

Talk to us in confidence

Our experts are here to guide and support you.

Related Services:

Find out where you stand

If you are ready to take the next step, click the button below to provide us with detailed information about your individual circumstances. We can then offer you confidential advice tailored to your situation right from the start, with no obligation.

Back To Top