I want to divorce my partner … but I don’t know where they are. banner

News and Insight

Home / News and Insight / Legal News / I want to divorce my partner … but I don’t know where they are.

I want to divorce my partner … but I don’t know where they are.

What's the issue?

The title of this blog could be mistaken for a tag line on the Jeremy Kyle show but surprisingly, this issue comes up more regularly than most people would expect.

The absent or missing partner situation encompasses a wide variety of scenarios, from the simple "I don't have their new address" to the more complicated "I've not seen them for 30 years and I think they've moved to Nepal". We've seen it all here at Wards.

There are many different reasons why a person, after separating from their husband, wife or civil partner, doesn't take swift steps towards divorce whilst they are still in contact. There are also many reasons why someone may leave abruptly, failing to leave a forwarding address or any clue as to their intended destination.

Whatever the reason for contact being lost the simple fact of not being able to find your former partner can cause real difficulties when wishing to divorce, perhaps because you have someone new you wish to marry or enter into a new civil partnership with.

First Steps

It sounds obvious but the easiest way of resolving the issue is to find your former partner. There are many ways of doing this - contact family and friends, check social media, make enquiries with their former employer or a social club or organisation they may belong or have belonged to. It is surprising how regularly these straightforward, old fashioned and inexpensive routes are successful.

However, if those enquiries get you nowhere, you may wish to contact a solicitor at Wards to help because it becomes a little more complicated from here on in.

The Court Process

The first thing that needs to happen is that your freshly completed divorce petition needs to be sent to your ex's last known address. After this it is necessary to see whether that divorce petition has been returned to the court unopened. We can help you with this.

Once it has been returned unopened (assuming your former partner no longer lives at the last known address) you can ask the court for permission to serve the petition in another way, such as by mail, or maybe on their employer.

But these options, especially where a number of years have elapsed, will often be unsuccessful and it is at this point that further applications need to be made to the court to explore other ways of finding their new address.

There are some hoops to jump through and therefore you may want help with this.

The Final Step

If having followed the steps above the former partner still can't be located, an application can be made to the court to 'dispense with service'. There is a particular form - called a statement to dispense with service of divorce petition - to complete to do this and a further fee , currently £50, needs to be paid. If all is in order, the court can then grant permission to dispense with service and the divorce process can begin proper.


The important thing to remember is that a step by step approach needs to be adopted. As with many court processes it's about doing things in the right way, in the right order and obtaining the right evidence.

If you would like assistance with any of these issues, the team of family law experts at Wards Solicitors can help.

    Book a free 30 minute consultation

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.