Help, My Spouse is Missing!

I often get asked the question: I want to file a Divorce or other Family Law action but I don’t know where the Respondent is? Can I proceed?

Sometimes the court allows litigants to serve documents other than by personal service (e.g. service by posting or publication).

However, before the court will allow this, you will have to prove that you have tried your hardest to find him/her. Also, sometimes it will be helpful to the action to actually find your ex-partner so that you can enforce court orders such as a child or spousal support.

Tips for Finding a Missing Spouse/Partner in Order to Serve Him/Her:
  • Search social networking sites: I can’t tell you how many times we have done a Facebook search and found a former partner. Sometimes locations are listed or you can email/ message a missing person. Sometimes there are photos of places s/he frequents that you (or a registered process server) can track down.
  • Send a letter to your spouse’s last address: Ensure to write “return service requested, do not forward. If they filed a change of address form with the USPS, you will get the letter back with a new address.
  • Call 411: Ok, I know this sounds silly, but oftentimes if you call the city that you think your ex lives or works, you may be able to get a phone number and/or an address!
  • Try online telephone directories or a reverse telephone number directory: If you know his/her phone number, try to get the address from a reverse telephone number directory.
  • Contact relatives or friends: Perhaps you tell them that the children have an urgent matter and you need to contact the other parent? (It’s not really a lie, right? I mean if a parent is missing, that is certainly urgent!) Call, write or email them and ask if they contact information or, in the alternative, if they will contact them on your behalf.
  • Try past employers: Contact them to see if they have any info regarding the person’s whereabouts or a name/address of a new employer. It’s worth a try!
  • Search property records with the tax assessor’s office or county registrar/recorder’s office.
  • Consider using a paid internet site that searches for people: The more info you have like name, date of birth, or social security number — the more likely the results are accurate. Also, try aliases.
  • If you think they may be in jail contact CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, County Jail or search the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Inmate Locator Database. Make sure you have the name and date of birth.
  • Contact a Private Investigator or be your own detective: Even if you don’t know where someone lives, you may know where they frequent or know their habits. Do they go to a certain bar? Gym? Coffee shop? Remember, you can’t serve him/her but you can have a friend, family member or registered server help you track someone down.
Below are some links to Bay Area Process Servers:
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