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How Do I Divorce My Spouse in Another State?

Today’s lifestyle is often quite mobile. Americans move for work, to be closer to family, to be farther away from family, or to enjoy a different climate or landscape. Remote work makes changing locations even easier.

The portability of our lives can be fantastic, but it can complicate a divorce if spouses no longer live in the same state. If you are considering divorcing your spouse but they live in another state, you can get divorced in New Jersey if residency and other requirements are met.

Divorce Requirements in New Jersey

Like all states, New Jersey has criteria that qualify someone for a divorce in the state.

Filing for divorce in New Jersey requires the following:

  • Residency. You must have been a New Jersey resident for the last 12 consecutive months. The only exception is when the divorce is due to your spouse’s adultery.
  • Grounds. New Jersey recognizes no-fault divorces, also known as irreconcilable differences. To use these grounds, you must have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months with no hope for reconciliation. You also have the option to list “fault” grounds such as separation (living apart for at least 18 months) or extreme cruelty. Other grounds include institutionalization and incarceration for an extended period of time.

Serving Divorce Papers to an Out-of-State Spouse

After filing for a divorce, your spouse must be served with the summons or complaint within 30 days of the date of filing. That requirement can be particularly challenging when your spouse lives somewhere else in the country or their whereabouts are unknown.

There are three ways you can serve divorce papers to your out-of-state spouse:

  • Service by Sheriff. The sheriff in the county where your spouse lives can serve the summons or complaint. There may be fees and mileage charges.
  • Process Serving Company. A process server can be hired to deliver the divorce papers.
  • Service by Mail. New Jersey allows the divorce paperwork to be delivered by certified mail. This method is generally not preferred because if the spouse doesn’t respond within the required timeframe, you’ll have to use another method to have them served.

Serving Divorce Papers to a Missing Spouse

If you don’t know your spouse’s location, you aren’t able to serve them by any traditional means. Despite that, you should still mail the paperwork (complaint, summons, and notice of initial hearing) to your spouse’s last known address (if you have one). Your attorney can also ask for a motion to serve by publication. A judge may approve publication if you can show you have made extensive efforts to find and serve your spouse. These efforts are documented in an affidavit of diligent search, which is submitted to the court.

Efforts to locate your missing spouse would include the following steps:

  • Sending to your spouse’s family members, friends, and past employers to see if any of them can provide a current address. Letters must be sent by regular and certified mail (return receipt requested).
  • Send a letter by mail to the Motor Vehicle Commission in the state your spouse last held a driver’s license.
  • Send letters to all branches of the military to determine if they have enlisted.

For service by publishing, the judge’s order will state where and when the notice must be published. The newspaper returns an affidavit certifying the publication. There is no requirement to prove your spouse saw the notice.

All letters and other communications must follow specific language in various official forms. Our lawyers can ensure that all requirements are met so that the process is as efficient and expeditious as possible.

Attorneys for Complicated Divorce Service Requirement

Official forms, affidavits, and filing deadlines make divorce a challenging process to take on your own. Complexities multiply when one spouse is in another state or country or their whereabouts are unknown. Fortunately, you don’t have to wade through the requirements without support.

At Lane & Lane, LLC, we have more than 60 years of collective divorce law experience. Save yourself time and frustration by contacting when you are considering divorcing your spouse. Depending on your circumstances, we can outline what needs to happen when. We will keep moving your divorce forward while fighting for your best interests.

Learn more about our divorce law services in a free initial consultation. Contact us through our convenient online form or call (908) 259-6673.

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