What to do when your Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers
A common problem within divorce proceedings is that the other party chooses to bury their head in the sand and ignores all of the paperwork which they receive from the Court, including the Acknowledgment of Service form which you will need them to complete to confirm (a) that they have received the divorce papers and (b) that they do not wish to contest the proceedings. In the absence of your spouse attending to this document, it can often seem almost impossible to progress the divorce. Thankfully, this is not the case.
The key to preventing your spouse from holding up the divorce proceedings is to anticipate the possibility that they may refuse to cooperate. In most instances, this means that it would be wise to base the divorce on their unreasonable behaviour. Unlike if you issue on the grounds of your spouses’ adultery or two years separation, you will then not need their active cooperation to progress your divorce. You will simply need to satisfy the Court that they have received the papers.
Assuming that you have commenced the proceedings on the basis of your spouses’ unreasonable behaviour, your options in terms of progressing your divorce without them completing and returning their Acknowledgment of Service are as follows:-
- Bailiff Service – You pay an additional fee (presently £110) and instruct the Court Bailiff to re-serve your Divorce Petition on your spouse. Once the Bailiff has effected service, you will no longer need your spouse to complete and return their Acknowledgment.
- Service through a Process Server – This is very similar to instructing a Court Bailiff to re-serve your Petition. The advantage is that the process server will often go to greater lengths to effect service and therefore your prospects of success in this regard will be better. The downside is that instructing a process server is likely to be more costly. This could cost upwards of £150.
- Deemed Service – This is an option where you have hard evidence such as a letter, text or email from your spouse in which they confirm that they have received the divorce papers from the Court. In this instance, you do not need to arrange for your Petition to be re-served through a Court Bailiff or process server. You merely need to make a separate application for deemed service exhibiting your evidence.
- Dispensed Service – This is effectively an option of last resort. It is designed to cover situations where it has proved impossible or will be impractical to confirm service through one of the other means.
Once you have utilised one of the above options, you should be able to progress your divorce to the next stage (i.e. the Decree Nisi stage) without further reference to your spouse. For the avoidance of any doubt, you will no longer need them to complete and return their Acknowledgment. You will also not need them to attend to any other documents in order to secure the Decree Absolute which what will complete your divorce.
Should you require any advice or assistance with your divorce or with regard to your financial position following your separation, please do not hesitate to contact Ian Butterworth through this firm’s Family Department on 01202 636223.
How to Obtain a Divorce When Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers
About the Author:
Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds advanced degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and the University of Virginia.
When it comes to the legal system, all divorce begins with a divorce petition. If your partner or spouse refuses to settle the current divorce agreement, your divorce will be considered a contested case and will generally require more time an energy than an uncontested divorce. The good news is that while your spouse may legally make your divorce more difficult, they cannot keep you married once you initiate the divorce proceedings. With patience, determination and a willingness to study the laws, practically anyone can take the steps to resolving their divorce case.
Contact your spouse and discover their reasons for refusing to sign the divorce document. Find out if there are specific requests that you feel comfortable meeting to obtain their compliance and decide whether you are willing to meet their demands.
Call your local courthouse and discover the procedure for filing a petition against your spouse. Determine which court you must use to make your claim–generally a family court–and fill out the petition stating that the marriage has dissolved. Include the basis for divorce if requested on the petition form.
Complete the necessary legal follow-ups, such as a review of the shared assets and property owned by you and your spouse. Carefully read any documents sent to you in regards to the legal requirements of child support, visitation and custody, and contact your spouse to discuss the legal divisions.
Prepare the evidence for the basis of divorce along with any other issues that may require legal resolution during the divorce case. Hire a lawyer to represent your case if desired and present your information in the court of law. Once you and your partner have presented your cases in turn, you will receive a determination of the divorce and a judgment for divorce issued by the court.
Follow up the legal decision by transferring any deeds, property or assets and paying any child support as required by law.
Make sure you fill out all of the requested information on the petition form to ensure an accurate court assessment. Include any requested details, such as separate and community property, child custody and child or spousal support.
What can I do if my spouse won’t sign the divorce papers?
I’ve filed for divorce, completed the paperwork, but my spouse won’t sign. What are my options? Will the judge allow me to go on with the divorce?
Divorces, even those desired by both spouses, often get contentious. And if one spouse won’t agree to end the marriage or is trying to avoid the divorce, the process may stretch out longer than expected.
Some resisting spouses can make the divorce process very difficult by refusing to sign the necessary divorce papers or by completely failing to respond to a request for a divorce. Others do so by hiding or trying to avoid "service" (meaning in-person delivery) of the divorce paperwork.
How a judge will treat these situations depends on where you live: some states will allow the divorce to proceed "uncontested," while others allow the petitioning spouse (the spouse asking for the divorce) to obtain a "default divorce."
The easiest type of divorce is an "uncontested" divorce, which means both spouses have filed the necessary paperwork (a divorce petition and a response) and they agree to all divorce-related issues, such as alimony (spousal support), child custody and support, and the division of property and debts.
Typically, if you and your spouse have reached a divorce settlement agreement on all of your issues, you can bring your agreement and any necessary divorce paperwork to court, where a judge will review it, issue orders based on that agreement, and grant you a divorce.
If the agreement involves child support and custody terms, judges will check to make sure your parenting agreement and the child support amount is in the best interests of the child and meets state guidelines.
If you properly served the divorce petition and your spouse filed an uncontested response, but won’t sign off on the final divorce papers, courts in some states may allow the case to proceed as though it’s uncontested. You may wait to be assigned a court appearance date. If your spouse fails to show up in court on that date, the judge may treat the case as though it’s uncontested and enter orders based on your divorce petition and the response.
Request to Enter a Default
If you have served your spouse properly, and your spouse failed to file a written response on time, some states let you file a request to enter a default divorce. State and local rules may vary, but generally, if your spouse failed to respond to your divorce petition within 30 days, you may file a request to enter a default along with a proposed judgment. It may also be allowed when a spouse can’t be located for service.
The court will set a hearing date and ask that you appear. At the hearing the judge may issue a ruling based entirely on what is stated in your divorce petition (or based on what you proved to the court) and then issue your divorce orders and judgment. By failing to respond or appear, your spouse gives up the right to have any say in the divorce proceeding or court judgment.
If you have filed for divorce and are dealing with an uncooperative spouse, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss the possibility of pursuing a default case.