On average, 90,000 people are missing in the United States at any given time. People go missing for all sorts of reasons, and many of them are married at the time of their disappearance.
But what happens if their loved ones never find them? Is it possible to pursue a divorce when one spouse is missing?
If you have questions about divorcing a missing person, turn to the Elliot Green Law Offices. Elliot Green is a Staten Island divorce attorney who will evaluate your situation and explain your options for getting a divorce. Call 718-260-8668 to schedule a free initial consultation.
What Is the New York Enoch Arden Law?
In the state of New York, the Enoch Arden law allows a spouse to dissolve his or her marriage if the other spouse has gone missing. New York Domestic Relations Law Section 220 allows the dissolution of marriage on the grounds of absence.
Dissolution is more like an annulment than a divorce because it essentially states the marriage is void, but the end result is the same as divorce. In order to qualify for a dissolution, the spouse pursuing the case must prove:
- The other spouse has been missing for at least five consecutive years;
- He or she worked with appropriate authorities to conduct a diligent search in case the missing spouse is still alive; and
- No evidence indicates that the missing spouse is still alive.
Who Was Enoch Arden?
Enoch Arden is the hero of a narrative poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poem follows Enoch, a sailor who becomes stranded on a desert island for several years. When he finally makes it home, he finds his wife has married his friend after assuming Enoch had died.
What Is the Dissolution Procedure under Enoch Arden?
If you would like to pursue a dissolution of marriage because your spouse is missing and you meet the above criteria, you must submit a petition for dissolution to the court. If the court accepts your petition, you must then serve it via publication at least 40 days prior to the hearing date.
At the hearing, you or your attorney will present evidence to prove the statements in the petition, and the court will determine if you qualify for a dissolution of marriage. After securing the dissolution, you are then free to remarry.
If you remarry and your old spouse reappears, your new marriage remains valid under New York law; however, the Enoch Arden procedure only addressed the status of the marriage. If your spouse reappears, you will still have to resolve all remaining issues associated with divorce including property division, spousal maintenance, and child support.