Divorce is never an easy process. However, it can go relatively smoothly so long as your spouse cooperates.
When you and your spouse agree on the divorce and can come to an agreement quickly on the various issues, such as the division of property, spousal support, and child custody, then you may manage to have as easy a divorce as is possible.
You both sign the papers, have your agreement finalized by the court, and move on. But what if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers?
Unfortunately, that may not be the case for you. Achieving a divorce from an uncooperative spouse can feel like an uphill battle. You eventually have to ask, what do you do when your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers? If you expect a contested divorce, or for your spouse to ignore the proceedings, it is best to speak with a skilled divorce attorney regarding how to obtain a divorce without your spouse’s cooperation.
5 Actions to Take if Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers
1. You Do Not Need Your Spouse’s Consent to Obtain a Divorce
Long gone are the days when one spouse might need the other’s consent to obtain a divorce. Now, consensual, or uncontested, divorces may be easier, but they are not required. You have the right to file for divorce in a court that has jurisdiction over your marriage, serve your spouse with the divorce papers, and seek a divorce with or without their permission or participation. However, it is important to understand that your spouse’s attitude influences what you need to do to dissolve your marriage.
2. Determine the Proper Grounds for Divorce
At this point, every state has an option for a no-fault divorce. It may go by different names in different states, but you are not forced to prove fault to obtain a divorce anywhere. However, there are situations in which you may choose to file for divorce based on fault in hopes of obtaining some benefit. For instance, in certain circumstances, proving that your spouse was at fault may help you obtain a larger property settlement, spousal support, or sole custody of your children.
If your spouse has already stated they will not sign divorce papers, and you have not yet filed, speak with a divorce attorney about the pros and cons of filing a no-fault or fault-based divorce. In Pennsylvania, you still have the option to file for a no-fault divorce based on the marriage being irretrievably broken. An irretrievable breakdown divorce does not require your spouse’s signature, though it does require at least a one-year separation before the divorce can be granted.
3. Did Your Spouse File a Response to the Divorce Complaint?
If your spouse was properly served the divorce papers, filed an uncontested response in court, then refused to sign the final divorce papers, talk with an attorney about your option to proceed with an uncontested divorce. In some jurisdictions, if the spouse did not contest the divorce or any particular issue in their response, the judge may allow you to proceed with an uncontested divorce.
In this scenario, you and your spouse will be assigned a court date. If your spouse does not attend the court date or attends and continues to not contest the divorce, the judge may enter a divorce order based on the facts in your complaint and the response.
You may have to move forward with a contested divorce, though. A court hearing will be set, and your spouse will be served with the court date. If they attend and openly contest the divorce or a particular issue, then each side must present testimony and evidence regarding their preferred outcome. The judge will use the evidence to make decisions related to the divorce, such as the division of assets and debts, retirement, alimony, and child custody and visitation.
Contested divorces can take weeks or months because the matter may require multiple hearings to argue the numerous issues involved. If you know your spouse is ready to fight you during the divorce, contact a Pittsburgh contested divorce attorney as soon as possible.
4. Did Your Spouse Fail to Respond to the Divorce Complaint?
You may have had trouble with your spouse right from the start. Despite properly filing for divorce and serving them with the divorce papers, your spouse may have not responded in time. That is, they failed to file a written response with the court. In this situation, your attorney may file a motion for default judgment.
A hearing date will be scheduled for you and your spouse to attend. If they do not show up to court that day, the judge can enter a divorce order based on the facts in your original divorce complaint, so long as you have met all the statutory requirements for a divorce.
5. Do Not Put Your Divorce on Hold
You may think that your spouse’s lack of consent or cooperation will delay your divorce. This is not necessarily true. The way in which your spouse can delay the final divorce order is by actively participating in the proceedings and arguing about each underlying issue. A contentious divorce can take months or years to finalize. However, if your spouse chooses to not participate, then this could lead to a speedier resolution.
You may have to fulfill a statutory waiting period to obtain a divorce, such as a one-year separation. However, there is no reason to pause your divorce or wait excessive periods of time for your spouse to sign divorce papers. You can obtain a divorce without their signature, and a Pittsburgh contest divorce attorney can help along the way.