Staying in a marriage where one spouse is unfaithful is doubtlessly miserable. But it can be more distressing when they suddenly abandon you just when you’re about to file a divorce. How are you supposed to carry out the service of process if they fled the country?
While you can still divorce a spouse who lives in another state or country, the process can be more complex, especially if you plan to bring your case to the court because of their infidelity. Proving your spouse’s affair takes more than just suspicions and suggestive text messages, so what are your options, then?
Here are some helpful advice from experienced divorce lawyers:
When Your Spouse Has Abandoned You
In some states, if your spouse leaves your home without intending to return, the court considers it as abandonment. This permits you to file for a fault divorce after a year of your spouse’s departure.
The state can also charge a runaway spouse with criminal abandonment if they’ve left their children who are financially dependent on them.
But if you’re the one who has left home with your children because of an abusive spouse, the court is less likely to find you guilty of abandonment.
You may also file for a no-fault divorce, instead, if no marital misconduct has taken place, and neither of you blames the other for the break-up. A no-fault divorce may be less stressful because it doesn’t have to be taken to court, which means less emotional baggage for both of you.
When Your Spouse Has Left the Country
Before divorcing a spouse who has left the country, consult a lawyer first, so that you’d fully understand your state laws. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you may already complete your divorce petition and file it with your local county court.
Make a detailed proposition regarding the division of your properties, such as your house, cars, and bank accounts. If you have children, suggest child custody, visitation, and support. If it’s a case of abandonment, you need to prove that your spouse refused to communicate with you when they left.
Note that some states require a specific period of abandonment before you can prove it. In Georgia, for instance, the abandoning spouse has to be gone for at least 12 months already before they can be charged.
Some people try to “investigate” their spouse’s infidelity by hacking into social media accounts to spy on their private messages. This cunning strategy isn’t advisable, though, because even if you can gather compelling pieces of evidence from it, phone records are usually protected by state laws, hence the court won’t recognize them as evidence.
Text messages suggesting an adulterous act, such as an alleged lover texting your spouse a meeting time and place, along with some amorous talk, may still be insufficient evidence. That’s because a text alone doesn’t prove that your spouse has carried on with the tryst. They can always claim that they had a change of heart.
Likewise, tracking your spouse’s whereabouts using GPS devices isn’t recommended. Other than the dangerous confrontation this can lead to, stalking laws may also protect your spouse, shedding a negative light on you.
Instead, avail professional surveillance services, a.k.a. a private investigator. Photos and videos are the strongest evidence, and they won’t get you into trouble if a legitimate professional has provided them for you.
Going through all of these processes may be excruciating, but with a skilled lawyer and solid evidence, you will find freedom and finally get the quality of life you deserve.