What do I do if my Spouse refuses to sign Divorce Papers?
What do I do if my spouse refuses to sign divorce papers?
Filing for a divorce from your spouse can be time consuming, complicated, and emotionally draining. It is hard enough to make the decision to file for divorce and move forward, let alone navigate the Court’s processes and procedures to progress your case, especially if one spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process. The good news is that the Court has established a set of procedures that allows a party to move a divorce forward, even if the other spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers. It is important to understand your rights, what you can do to protect them, and the procedures that need to be followed to move your case forward, as this area of law is very nuanced. In contested divorce cases, it is highly recommended you meet and retain an experienced divorce lawyer. Continue reading to see what steps can be done if one spouse denies the grounds stated in your divorce petition or will not sign the divorce papers and makes your case a difficult contested divorce.
If a Spouse Fails to Respond to a Divorce
After filing a divorce petition, your spouse will need to be served with the petition to dissolve your marriage along with all other papers issued by the court. It is important to note that you cannot serve these divorce documents yourself.
You must have someone who is over 18 years old, and who is a neutral third party to the case personally serve your initial divorce papers on your spouse. Once your spouse is served, it is important to mark that day and file what is called a Proof of Service of Summons, which lets the Court know that the other party has been served properly.
Your spouse has thirty calendar days from the time that they are served the divorce documents to respond. If the divorce petition is not responded to within this time, regardless of your spouse refusing or ignoring the divorce papers or if your spouse fails to timely respond, you can file a default Judgement with the Court. Spouses can agree that one will not respond if the requests made in the divorce papers are not contested.
A default puts the Court on notice that you want to move forward in the divorce process without the other spouse, and that, because they have failed to respond or are refusing to sign divorce agreements. If you intend to move forward with a default hearing, you must make sure that your request for a default is filed and approved before your spouse responds to your petition paperwork. If your spouse responds to your petition before the Court files your default divorce paperwork, you will be unable to move forward with that process.
So long as proper process service and notice is given, if your spouse fails to respond timely within 30 days and you file the necessary paperwork to request a default judgment, the Court’s Judge has the authority to move the case forward without that spouse’s participation and enter a divorce decree. This means that the Court can make child custody orders, child support orders, property division orders, spousal support, and any other similar orders pertaining to the divorce through this process.
What do I do if my spouse responded to the divorce but stopped participating?
Typically, spouses who cooperate to settle an uncontested divorce case outside of Court with a divorce attorney is often the best option because they can resolve all the issues more quickly. It is also better for most because they can retain control over the final outcome of the divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes that isn’t an option. If a spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers or has filed a response but has stopped engaging in the divorce process, you will need to set the matter for a trial and have the Court’s Judge make a final ruling on the issues. If your spouse decides to show up for the trial, you will have to present evidence of your claims and the Judge will make orders about how to divide marital property and what support orders will need to be in the divorce decree. If the other party does not show up, the Judge can still make a ruling without your spouse’s participation, so long as they were given proper notice, but failed to participate.
Before a default can be taken or a divorce trial can be set, you need to have certain procedural requirements met. Contact our office for a free 30 minute phone consultation to get more information on the divorce process and what you need to do to get your case completed if your spouse is refusing to sign papers or if you need help to ready your case for trial with our experienced divorce attorney. If you are going through a marital breakup situation, find out for yourself why we’re often called the kind of family law attorney Roseville has been waiting for by calling (916) 655-9824.
Related: Divorce Law Basics