Love and marriage are beautiful, that with no doubt, but as beautiful as they may be, sometimes, they turn sour and parties that once loved one another have no option but to separate and divorce. But what happens when the spouse to be divorced is nowhere to be found or his whereabouts are, to his soon to be ex, unknown?

As a general rule, divorce summons must be personally served on the Defendant by the Sheriff of the court, this is because a divorce changes the status of a spouse from being married to being single and / or unmarried.

However, where his whereabouts are unknown, “substituted service” is permitted where the Defendant is believed to be within the borders of the Republic of South Africa.

An application is made to the court, usually before the divorce summons is issued and the Plaintiff must show in an affidavit that they have attempted to use every possible way to locate the Defendant with no success.

The Plaintiff must at least:

  • Locate the last known address of the Defendant;
  • Checked the address and found that the people living there, and the neighbours have no knowledge of the Defendant’s whereabouts;
  • Contacted the relatives, friends, last known employers and co workers of the Defendant;
  • Searched for the Defendant online;
  • Attempted to telephonically contact the Defendant;
  • Appointed a tracing agent with no success of locating the Defendant.

(in simple terms, all means have been exhausted with no success)

Upon reviewing the application, and if a proper case is made, the court may then order any manner of service it deems appropriate, such as publication in a newspaper, service on family members or friends, by fax or email, or even through a social network like Facebook or WhatsApp. The method of alternative service will depend on the facts of the case. The court will also determine the time period within which notice of intention to defend must be given.

It might be frustrating trying to divorce a spouse whose where abouts are to you unknown, but it is still possible to divorce him.

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