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  • Writer's pictureLori Hammer

My Ex Fled the Country

Resolving Family Law issues offers an opportunity to make a fresh start and improve your life. For help with your family law issue such as parentage or divorce in Chicago, call Angela Larimer at 773-370-0600 or email Angela at

What happens if your ex lives in another state or another country? How can you still get a divorce if they have fled the country?

For in-state cases, technically, your ex or you can file for divorce in the county of the state where you or her reside. In order to file a family law matter in a particular state’s county, you must show proof of residency. For Illinois, the proof of residency is 90 days immediately preceding the date of filing. Most people prefer to file in his or her own county as the travel or requirements for a “foreign jurisdiction” (a county outside of the state or outside of the county where you reside) may make the case more of a hassle particular if a judge requires your appearance. The court must have jurisdiction over the other person and that is usually accomplished with one party being an in county resident and the other party being properly served the court documents, with proof of service.

Let’s take a look at a divorce proceedings as an example. Once you file for divorce, your ex-spouse must be served with papers. Typically lawyers utilize the local sheriff to serve the papers. If the recipient is being slippery (or is successfully avoiding service), one can petition the court to seek to have a special process server hand him or her the paperwork. Yes, it’s just like the movies. They stake out the person at his or her work place and/or address and wait for them to appear, then hand him or her the paperwork. Even if your ex flees the country and cannot be located, there are still ways to secure service for your case. One old-school but common method being practiced is the publication of the filing for divorce. You might see this being done with churches, but it is also done with the courts as well. You petition the court for service by publication and publish the lawsuit three weeks in a row in that particular newspaper which the court has already approved as an adequate publication for service. The publication method allows for "serving papers" in an alternative way.

While divorce is never easy to begin with, it is always best if you have the means to get in contact with your ex and they agree to a divorce. That is the best-case scenario, rather than having to track him or her down and/or publicly file notice in the newspaper, which also costs money. Coming to an amicable agreement with your spouse also eliminates the need to use a Special Process Server and have a long drawn out legal process, that is often very costly.

If your ex flees the country, publication would be a good methodology. Some lawyers even ask for the other party’s email address and send the paperwork as a courtesy through email. Additionally, there are many countries that have agreements with the United States, which grant local law enforcement or airport security to be notified and enforce US law beyond our borders. Depending on the circumstances (each situation is unique), if your ex has fled to a country that is not in compliance with US law, there might not be much you can do, but your attorney can assess your specific situation and follow up with the court on a judge's ruling based on the evidence.

The key to your success, if finding a highly qualified attorney who can assist and guide you through the process, listen to your needs and adequately prepare both you and the court for the case at hand. All family law situations are unique and Larimer Law prides itself on finding the exact right combination of advice, legal skills and methodologies to resolve your particular situation.

Feel free to call us today to set up a free consultation. We’d love to help you through your unique family law situation!

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