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How you can divorce your spouse without them knowing

Under certain circumstances, one spouse can divorce their husband/wife without them knowing. If spouses are estranged, unaware of where each other live and one attempts to find the other’s address but is unsuccessful following a comprehensive search, they may be allowed to end their marriage without the other party’s knowing – provided the divorce relies on the grounds of desertion, unreasonable behaviour or five-year separation.

What steps should I take to find my husband/wife?

As we’ve stated previously, the courts will expect any applicant that requests a divorce without knowing their spouse’s whereabouts to have made every reasonable effort to locate this person. As a result, there are several things that will need to have been done before the courts will even consider such a request.

Officially, the Ministry of Justice recommends that anyone in such a position contact their spouse’s relatives, friends, their last known employer or members of trade unions or other professional organisations. We’d also suggest that the local electoral roll be checked and, if all else fails, the services of a private detective be sought – preferably on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis. You can even contact your regional divorce centre and request that they liaise with other government departments to try and locate your spouse, though this will cost you a fee of £50.

If none of the above yields the desired result, then it’s possible to ask the court to grant a divorce without any documents being sent to the responding party.

How to apply for a divorce without your spouse’s address

If you want a divorce but don’t know your husband/wife’s address, you’ll need to complete form D13B and send this to the court along with the standard form D8. Provided a judge is satisfied that sufficient efforts to locate this person have been undertaken, they will allow the divorce to proceed without the need for them to be contacted.

Why neither two-year separation nor adultery can be used

A divorce that relies on two-year separation explicitly requires the consent of both parties whilst one dependent on adultery requires either the offending spouse’s confession (for want of a better word) or outright proof.

Naturally, a party cannot consent to the divorce if they are unaware of it. Adultery, on the other hand, is exceptionally difficult to prove when a spouse’s whereabouts are known and its virtually impossible to prove when this information is not available.


Provided someone has been unable to locate their spouse in spite of strenuous efforts to do so, they can indeed get a divorce without their husband/wife’s knowledge provided they’re relying on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, desertion or five-year separation.


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