Issuing a divorce petition – what to do if the address is unknown

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We recently received an email asking for advice about what address to use for service on a divorce petition when the whereabouts of the respondent is unknown.

This interesting question provoked a discussion among the team as this is an area that is often asked about but where the answer is not straightforward. The aim of this post is therefore to help others in similar situations who are searching in vain and unable to find any information in this area.

Firstly, the Family Procedure Rules 2010 state that an applicant must include in the divorce application an address at which the respondent may be served.

As a starting point, it would be advisable to contact your spouse’s solicitor (or former solicitor) to check whether they would be willing to accept service of the petition before entering their details. It is important to do this first because a solicitor’s address cannot be used unless they have specifically agreed to accept service of the petition.

If your spouse’s solicitor responds, confirming that they are advising your spouse and have indicated a willingness to accept service, that method should be used and you can go ahead and enter the solicitor’s details for service.

If they do not respond or are not advising your spouse, the Rules state that where an application cannot be served on the respondent personally or at an address which the respondent has given or on the solicitor, the divorce papers must be served on the respondent at their usual or last known address.

If you are aware that your spouse is or might still be at their usual or last known address, you should enter those details for service.

If you have reason to believe that your spouse no longer lives at their usual or last known address the Rules state that you must take ‘reasonable steps’ to find the current address of your spouse. The Rules direct that you should enquire with relatives, friends, neighbours, former employers and any other person or association who may have some information about the respondent.

If you are unable to establish your spouse’s current address The Family Procedure Rules 2010 require that you must consider whether there is an alternative place or method by which service may be issued – but please be aware that an application cannot be served by fax or by email. If you do get to this point it might be worth considering using the address of a relative or close friend of your spouse or engaging the service of an enquiry agent.

As a very last resort, and this is very rare and exceptional, if your spouse cannot be found an application can be made to Court to dispense with service. In order to do this, you would need to demonstrate that you have exhausted all reasonable avenues in attempting to locate your spouse.

The divorce process is rarely straightforward, and our team of divorce solicitors would be happy to assist you in this area. As well as helping you understand the practicalities of the divorce process, we are also able to support you by making you aware of your options to minimise the emotional impact to you and your family. If you would like to understand more about our approach and the options available to you, find out more here.

48 responses on “Issuing a divorce petition – what to do if the address is unknown

  1. Hello,
    My estranged husband has notified me by email that he will be filing for divorce this November under the 2 year separation rule. I am in total agreement with this but he is asking for my new home address so the papers can be sent to me. I do not want him to know where I live as he was a bully & very dictatorial during our marriage. My sister & brother-in-law have said I can use their address but my husband says his solicitor said it needs to be my actual address and not a ‘care of’ address. I really don’t want to divulge this information to him, am I within my rights to use my sisters address? Thank you for your attention. Kind regards, Sarah

    1. As there is now no requirement for a party to reveal their home address or other contact details within the divorce petition, you may keep your contact details confidential although you are required to provide your contact details including address to the Court. Doing so will ensure that the Court can ?serve? (send) correspondence and documentation directly to you.

      If you wish to withhold your address within the divorce petition ‘Form C8 Confidential Contact Details’ should be completed and sent to the Court; this will ensure that you can omit your address from the petition and the details will not be revealed to any person unless the Court directs otherwise. The completed form should be sent to the Court before your husband files the divorce petition to the Court. When your husband files the petition he should inform the Court that he is aware that form C8 has been filed by yourself.

      The Court will serve the divorce petition once issued directly to you at the confidential address provided using form C8. Please be aware, should you change address during the course of proceedings you must give notice of the change to the Court again using form C8.

  2. My spouse agreed to a 2 year separation consent divorce but has since changed his mind. The original petition was sent to his parent’s house as I do not know his current address and he will not tell me. I understand the process to amend my petition but believe this has to be ‘served’ on him. Can I go ahead and still use the parents address or do I have to apply to the court to do so? Thanks

    1. In the absence of a solicitor confirming they are advising your spouse and indicating a willingness to accept service, if you are unable to serve the application on your spouse personally and your spouse has not provided an address, the papers must be served on your spouse at their usual or last known address.
      If you do not hold that information or have reason to believe your spouse no longer lives at their usual or last known address, provided you have taken ?reasonable steps? to find the current address of your spouse the Family Procedure Rules 2010 provide that you can use the address of a relative of your spouse.
      In summary, provided you have considered the following means of service first you may enter the details of your spouse?s parent?s address for service;
      1. whether there is acting solicitor willing to accept service, if not;
      2. whether you can use your spouses usual or last known address, if not;
      3. you have taken ?reasonable steps? to find his current address without success.

  3. Hi , I wish to divorce from my husband after 6 years We are living sepratly . My problem he is not any more living in the UK . He is British nationality But living in Qatar . What Can I Do ? Thank You

    1. Provided you are able to issue divorce proceedings within the UK, if you know the address of where your husband is living in Qatar the Court may serve (send) the petition once issued directly to your husband at the address stated on the divorce petition. If you do not know his address I recommend you consider the steps set out in our blog post; issuing a divorce petition – what to do if the address is unknown.

      However, as there may be jurisdictional issues I would recommend you contact a Resolution Lawyer in order to understand your position in respect of being able to issue divorce proceedings within the UK. Jurisdiction for petitions for divorce can be challenging to understand as prior to issuing matrimonial proceedings consideration must be given to a number of factors. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you.

  4. My spouse and I seprrayed 4 years ago. This was very sudden and out of the blue due to his actions.
    He was not allowed to return to the marital home so went to his parents.
    I feel I am now ready to serve papers for divorce however I have no current address (but not asked either).
    I know if I were to ask he would give me his parents address but I don’t think it is fair on them to be involved.

    1. If your husband is still residing with his parents their address details should be entered on the petition for service. If you have reason to believe your husband is no longer living with his parents you must take reasonable steps to find out the current address of your husband, by asking relatives, friends, neighbours, former employers and any other person or association who may have some information as to his whereabouts.

      Should you not be able to establish your husband?s current address from making the above enquiries to avoid involving his parents, it might be worth considering using the address of another relative or close friend of your husband. However, in the absence of being able to use the address of another relative or close friend there may be no alternative but to enter his parents address on the petition for service.

      Although you understandably do not wish to involve your husband?s parents if you have exhausted all of the above options using their address would be more cost effective than engaging the service an enquiry agent. I hope this assists.

  5. I got married 21 years ago. We never lived together. My husband was subsequently deported from the UK a few months later. I heard a few years later that he returned to the UK under a slightly different name and married someone else. A check revealed he had not divorced me. My question is since so much time has lapsed are we still legally bound? I have recently applied for a simplified divorce and I am experiencing difficulties in having the court papers served- both himself and his partner keep giving me different addresses as their place of residence.

    1. In England and Wales it is a criminal offence to be married to more than one person. The only way to legally finalise your marriage in England and Wales is by getting a divorced. If you have applied for divorce and experiencing problems serving the court papers on your husband you will in the first instance need to instruct a Private Investigator/Tracing Agent and or Process Server to track down and personally serve the papers on your husband, they can then provide you with a statement/affidavit to file at court as evidence of service to support your application for the divorce to proceed. As a very last resort, and this is very rare and exceptional, if your husband cannot be found an application can be made to Court to dispense with service. In order to do this, you would need to demonstrate that you have exhausted all reasonable avenues in attempting to locate your husband.

  6. Hello, I fled an abusive relation and after which my husband filed a divorce petition and the court it to my parents address which is overseas. As my husband does not know where am I in UK.

    1.My parents confirmed that one page no. 12 is missing in that envelope.
    I wish to request the complete document and believe Why should parents respond, it should be me who should respond.

    2. due to safety reasons I do not wish to disclose my address. Now how do I ask for copy from the court.

    3. I do not defend the divorce, but I don’t agree to the behavioural allegations made by him. I’m a destitute and can’t afford fighting case and law fees.

    Please help.

    1. As there is now no requirement for a party to reveal their home address or other contact details within the divorce petition, you may keep your contact details confidential although you are required to provide your contact details including address to the Court. Doing so will ensure that the Court can ?serve? (send) correspondence and documentation directly to you. Even though the divorce petition has been issued using your parents address you can change your address with the Court but not reveal your address to your spouse.

      If you wish to withhold your address within the divorce petition form C8; Confidential Contact Details, should be completed and sent to the Court this will ensure that you can omit your address from the petition and the details will not be revealed to any person unless the Court directs otherwise. The form can be accessed here.

      There is a separate process which is required to be followed should a respondent wish to defend divorce proceedings, there are also additional costs involved including a Court fee of ?245. If you do not wish to defend divorce proceedings but do not agree with the statement of case at Part 6 of the petition, this can be noted when completing the Acknowledgment of Service. An Acknowledgment of Service Form D10 should have been included within the accompanying documents when you received the issued divorce petition. As the respondent you are required to file (send to) with the Court the completed Acknowledgment of Service within the time stated. The time to respond may have been extended as the petition was served (sent) to an overseas address. If you do not wish to defend divorce proceedings you should state ?no? at part 4 of the Acknowledgment of Service and explain that you do not accept the particulars cited and reserve the right to defend them should they be raised in future proceedings. You should seek advice before completing the form and the above is only intended to be a guide to assist you.

  7. I am currently in the process of filing for dissolution of my Civil Partnership. My ex has agreed to this and we have lived apart for over two years.

    He will not give me a home address but is happy to provide one for correspondence.

    Can I simply leave the ‘home address’ section for him blank on the dissolution application and fill in the correspondence details in the other box ? Or do I have to still have take steps to try and obtain it ?

    1. The procedure for terminating a civil partnership is contained within the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and is similar to a divorce.

      The Court may accept no home address being entered at section 3.2 with an explanation such as ?see address for service provided by the respondent?. However, as this is an administrative question it would be advisable to check whether this would be acceptable with the Court staff at the divorce centre that would deal with Civil Partnership applications within your region. There are currently 11 divorce centres within England and Wales. You can contact the divorce centre in your region directly by searching for the contact details of the Court.

  8. I want to serve divorce papers to my estranged husband but he will not provide his address no matter how many times I have tried to find it out. He has provided his work address though and wants me to send the petition there – can I do this?

    1. If your husband has provided a work address for service and you are confident that your husband is still employed by the firm and will receive the petition you may enter his work address on the petition for service. Using your husband?s current work address with his consent would be more cost effective than engaging the service of an enquiry agent.

      In the event that your husband is not still employed by the firm you should take all reasonable steps to find out his current address by asking relatives, friends, neighbours, former employers and any other person or association who may have some information as to his whereabouts.

      I hope this assists.

  9. In live in Woolwich, I want to know where do I send the divorce forms and how many forms do I need to send

  10. I am starting divorce proceedings against my husband, he has no fixed abode , his parents do not want the papers going there, nor do the rest of his family or friends, his father has said if the papers are sent to me, he will deliver them himself (my address is the one we both lived together at). Is this possible?

    1. In the event that you are unable to establish your spouse?s current address it might be worth considering using the address of a relative or close friend of your spouse with whom your spouse is in contact with or making enquiries with any other person as to his whereabouts. Consideration should also be given as to whether an alternative place or method for service that may be used, please be aware that an application cannot be served by fax or by email.

      Whichever address is used in order for the divorce to proceed you may wish to consider using a Process Server to track down and personally serve the papers on your spouse, they can then provide you with a statement/affidavit to file at court as evidence of service to support your application for the divorce to proceed. As a very last resort, and this is very rare and exceptional, if your spouse cannot be found an application can be made to court to dispense with service. In order to do this, you would need to demonstrate that you have exhausted all reasonable avenue in attempting to locate your spouse.

  11. Hello, I am attempting to divorce my estranged husband, we have been separated for nearly 3 years, he is of no fixed abode and originally agreed for his parents address to be used during the divorce. The original papers were sent there and he said he signed them and sent them back the the court 5 months ago. The court have not received these. He is now refusing to sign any papers and states that I can’t use his mothers address any longer. He has no solicitor. What are my options.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sue. Where a spouse has received a petition but no acknowledgment of service has been received by the Court the petitioner may be required to prove ?service?, meaning that the respondent spouse has received the petition.

      However, the procedure is rarely straightforward and will depend on which fact the petition has been based on. As such it is recommended that specialist advice is sought from a Resolution Lawyer. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you.

  12. Hi, my ex husband has deserted me and i have no whereabouts where he could be. I have filed a divorce petition already to his last known address. I have found out that petition had been returned as does not live here. Luckily, randomly i was contacted by his cousin who had told me, he has moved to another country and is happily married, he told me he has a social media account under a different name. So i contacted and ask for a divorce which he replied and was happy to proceed and apologized for his behaviour and gave me his current address. I sent an email regarding the new address and evidence of this conversation to the divorce centre , How long will this process take for my divorce, to be completed as i want to live my life, considering he is in a different country.

    Thank you

  13. Hi, my ex husband has deserted me and i have no whereabouts where he could be. I have filed a divorce petition already to his last known address. I have found out that petition had been returned as does not live here. Luckily, randomly i was contacted by his cousin who had told me, he has moved to another country and is happily married, he told me he has a social media account under a different name. So i contacted and ask for a divorce which he replied and was happy to proceed and apologized for his behaviour and gave me his current address. I sent an email regarding the new address and evidence of this conversation to the divorce centre , How long will this process take for my divorce, to be completed as i want to live my life, considering he is in a different country and also i have sent this information via email, how long will it also take for them to reply or update.

    Thank you

    1. You seem to have had a challenging time. The courts are really stretched and some are turning paperwork around quicker than others. If you email the court they may have an auto reply confirming the time it is taking to process papers.Have you asked for the court to send the papers to his new address?

      You may want to consider asking the court to send the papers back to you and you then emailing them to him. Ask him to acknowledge he has had the papers by emailing you back. You should post them as well. The crucial issue to being able proceed quickly will be him returning a document called an acknowledgment of service to the court.

      The court would let you know when the papers have been sent in any event and as he is abroad he will have longer to reply.

      Has he really remarried? That?s an issue for him is he has and if he is still married to you!

      Once he has responded or if not once you?ve been able to convince the court he has been served, you can press on and there will be no more papers for him to complete that could delay progress. You should seek advice if there are financial issues to resolve or if there are ongoing issues with serving him.

      I hope that helps.

  14. I have been apart from my wife for 4 years, she will not provide an address and i have exhausted all avenues of finding out. I sent this information to the court along with petition to dispense with service, and it has been returned stating that I have ticked “2 years with consent” and so they cannot process it. The only other options i have are – adultery, behaviour, and 5 years separation which has not yet elapsed?

    1. Thank you for your comment. You can not dispense with service if you are proceeding with the divorce on the basis of 2 years separation with consent. You will have to look to amend your divorce petition and proceed to evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by using one of the other facts listed within the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 such as: Behaviour, Desertion, Five years separation. It will very much be dependent on the individual facts of your case as to which fact might be applicable to base the divorce petition on to enable the divorce to proceed. Should you require any assistance in identifying which fact might be applicable to your situation and the procedure to progress the divorce I would recommend you consider seeking specialist legal advice from a Resolution lawyer. Please let me know if I can assist further.

  15. I don?t wish to provide my home address to my husband, can he send the divorce papers to my work address instead?

    1. Providing you confirm in writing to your husband that you are willing for papers to be sent to you at your work address then I do not believe that this is likely to be an issue. However, you need to be confident that any address that you provide will ensure that any documents sent to you will be passed to you without delay.

  16. I am French citizen settled in UK, my wife came on a 6 months EEA permit, after 9 months she despaired from the marital home, she didn?t maintain contact also.

    The Home Office is informed as well.

    It hasn?t been 6 months we been separated, I want to fill divorce we were married abroad but the marriage is recognised and legal here as well.

    I consulted a solicitor, he used a tracing agent to find address no success at all, my wife is hiding somewhere in Scotland, I know that because she called saying she wants to rerun and live life as normal, I don?t want it.

    She doesn?t want to co operate at all.

    What can I do, I am stuck here, she doesn?t have relative here, those we have contact abroad are also not communicating.

    What can I do?

    1. Thank you for your comment. This must be a very difficult time for you. I would suggest that you speak with a family lawyer who is a member of resolution as they will need to explore with you the options of how to commence and serve the divorce petition in circumstances where you do not have an address to send the divorce petition to your Wife. If we can assist on a formal basis please get in touch.

  17. I finally left my husband early 2018 after many years of psychological and heavy physical abuse. Out of fear, I am now living under a new Surname (deed poll) and anonymous address. I really want to divorce this person but simply cannot afford to engage a solicitor and certainly cannot afford to let him know where I live. I realise I will have to initiate the whole divorce process which worries me. With regards my anonymity and although no children are involved I am aware of form C8 (can I still use this..?). He can keep the property and any financials assuming there are still any, I just want to be safe.
    Can you advise?

    1. Thanks for your comment Lindsay, I am sorry to hear you have had such a difficult time. You can keep your address confidential by completing the relevant box on page 2 of the divorce petition and form C8, regardless of whether you have children. However, your name will be stated on all of the documentation produced within the divorce, including the decree absolute which is the document which formally ends the marriage, and it is not possible to keep your name confidential. In relation to financial matters, you should be aware that any financial claims that you and your husband have against the other are not automatically dismissed within the divorce proceedings so you should address these separately. I recommend that you seek some specialist legal advice to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the process.

  18. My partner is looking to get divorced, been separated for over 25 years now, and he doesn’t know where she lives. How does he get divorced?

    1. Thank you for your comment Lesley. Your partner could try serving the petition at the most recent address he has if there is a chance his wife might still be there. If not he should take steps to track her down, including contacting any friends or family members who may be able to assist and instructing an enquiry agent to find her. In exceptional cases the court will make an order dispensing service on the respondent if they can?t be found, but your partner will need to show he has taken all reasonable efforts to track her down.

  19. I married my American boyfriend 2 years ago in Las Vegas. I then returned to England and he stayed in America. We have only seen each other twice since and have never lived together. I now have no contact with him, I know he has no fixed abode and no steady employer. How can I divorce him? Thanks

    1. I would suggest that you try to make contact with your husband first to see if he will provide you with a postal address for the purpose of the divorce. If the issue is that you cannot contact him, then you will need to try to trace him and you can use a tracing agent to do this. Once you have an address our divorce fact sheet will help you with the procedure, however I recommend speaking with a specialist family lawyer to ensure the process runs smoothly.

  20. Hi there, after more than 2 years seperation i filled a petition for divorce. I am a uk resident and he moved to UAE right after seperation. The court received my petition and send him the copy on 22nd of November, but he still didn’t received it. On my letter it says that i have couple of options to do if i dont receive acknowledgement of service within 14 days. Is it possible that it takes longer for him to receive the pappers or should i proceed? He is more than happy to finally do the divorce so hoped it would be easy one. Thanks for your time

  21. Hi, I am filling divorce petition , as my ex left me here and went Portugal 10 months before . We been married in march 2015. Finally , I am able to contact with her and we both agree for divorce but she don’t want to provide any address For Portugal, Also she don’t have anyone here. She agree to respond and she wants to use the same address as mine. she will fly here and sign the paper. Is it possible to use the same address ? Also , what is the best reason I could give on divorce petition ? No adultery. If you kindly suggest me. we don’t have house together, no children and no financial . Straight divorce and I am doing it myself.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am unable to provide specific advice within this forum. I would strongly advise that you seek the advice of a Resolution lawyer on these issues.

  22. I married abroad and sponsored my partner to the UK after which a turbulent relationship ended within 8 months. We’ve been separated one and a half years and my partner has commenced divorce proceedings through a solicitor last year but has been slow to progress to Decree Nisi since settling in the UK.
    I however wish to submit a petition for annulment as I believe the circumstances are more appropriate than divorce, but a tracing agency was unable to confirm/find any details about spouse or their current address.
    Would I be able to omit the ?Respondents address.? in Part 1 (D8N) and provide the document from agency to prove that my partner is not traceable? and request that the court use the address given to them by my spouse in a C8 form as per her divorce application.
    Secondly, may I enter my partner’s solicitor in the D8N for address for service without notifying/querying the firm?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I am unable to give specific advice in this forum. I would suggest that you obtain specialist legal advice from a family lawyer who is a member of Resolution, who will be able to consider your circumstances in detail with you and advise you upon the potential options that may be available to you.

  23. Hi

    I got married in 2011 and separated 2013 and applied divorce on 2 yrs separation in 2015.

    I had his uk address and he was in uk when I applied for divorce.
    After some time I called him but no response on Facebook / telephone/ emails
    I then came to know that he was detained and sent back to his home country as he lost his case and was illegal.
    Now I don?t know his address but he did email the court of his new address and they did send him the documents but he is saying he did not received.
    My question is if he did not have documents from where did he inform the court to update the address.

    2nd I did contact his friends and they said they don?t know.

    One of his friend said he will give the documents to respondent and requested me to send the documents to him. But the court says the respondent needs to reques that.
    Not me….
    But the respondent does not replay back

    3) I am sending mssg / face book call but he does not answer….

    While talking to his brother – he said he has the documents

    What should I do?????

    1. Thank you for your comment. If your divorce is based on two years separation you will need your husband?s consent, he will need to duly complete and send back the acknowledgement form to the court to enable the divorce to proceed. In the first instance you should contact the court and request a sealed copy of the petition and blank acknowledgment form so you can arrange for personal service on your husband (the court should provide you with these, you are however likely to have to pay a fee to obtain them). As a last resort, you could look to amend your petition to proceed on the basis of behaviour and then make an application to the Court to dispense with service. Your application to dispense with service must convince the court that you have taken all reasonable steps to find the current address of your husband and serve the papers on him. This is a very rare and exceptional measure and I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of a Resolution member lawyer before taking action.

  24. Hi. I want to file for divorce from my ex after nearly two and a half years of splitting up.
    I have our three kids.
    My issue is that she has no fixed abode. I can often find out where she is living, but where she is living can, and often does change with no warning. I think the longest she’s been in one place was about 3 months, and that was the longest by quite a margin.

    We don’t have solicitors, and can’t really afford them. Our reason for splitting was that she is, and always was gay. (she wanted kids and someone to pay the bills so she didn’t have to work).

    How could I get my divorce from her?

    1. Thank you for your comment Billy. It is unclear from the information you have provided whether your wife is also wanting a divorce. Assuming this to be the case, I would suggest asking her to provide an address for service. It may be that she is content for documents to be served at the address of a friend or relative.

  25. My daughters husband is in the army and several attempts to serve the divorce papers have been ignored. She has tried unsuccessfully to speak to his commanding officer – there seems to be no way of getting the papers to him. He is a dangerous man – he absconded from the army on one occasion to go to Syria – she had the anti terrorism police army police and every other unit grilling her. He was found at brought back and it beggars believe that the army let him stay in. How can she get a divorce from this man!

  26. I have been separated for over five years. My husband is refusing to give me a divorce so that I can serve papers. I believe he is “traveling” in Portugal with his current partner.

    I have contacted his daughter, but she says she doesn’t know where he is and due to her health, I believe it would be unfair to her to involve her.

    Other than facebook (which he’s stopped responding to); I have no way of contacting him. He is reading messages and not responding.

    I can’t afford to hire people to look for him and I can’t afford hours and hours of legal help (I am a single mother on benefits). I just want a divorce.

    What can I do?

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