Family Law - Partner Missing Overseas?
We recently worked on a case which demonstrated the difficulties with obtaining a divorce against an overseas partner. Our client was the Petitioner husband in a matter where Respondent wife had left the Petitioner after only after 6 months of marriage in 2010 in Ecuador. The Petitioner had been living with the Respondent and her family in a small village in Ecuador and the Respondent was subsequently unable to be traced.
The Petitioner sought the help of various authorities in Ecuador in order to trace the Respondent. He instructed lawyers to assist with the divorce process which he wished to go ahead with as he wanted to return to live in the UK divorced so that he would be free to re-marry in the future if he so wished.
Despite the lawyers in Ecuador making enquiries, no progress could be made as the Respondent could not be located. The Petitioner was left frustrated when a few years down the line, he had spent a great deal of money on legal and tracing fees without achieving the divorce.
The Petitioner returned to live in the UK and instructed us in 2012 to issue divorce proceedings on the fact that he had been separated for at least 5 years. An application was made to the court to dispense with service. The application was accompanied by a detailed Affidavit of evidence and a chronology which had to be submitted to demonstrate all the attempts made by the Petitioner to locate the Respondent. This included copies of letters sent to various addresses in Ecuador where he believed the Respondent may have been living and also letters to various family members of the Petitioner.
The court accepted the evidence and as a result dispensed with service allowing us to proceed with the next stage of the divorce, the application for Decree Nisi. The Petitioner later received his Decree Absolute and was free to marry his American girlfriend.
In cases where the other party cannot be found, it is important to keep a record of any attempts made to locate them as this will form an important part of the evidence submitted to the court in any application to dispense with service.