In some divorces, there is a mutual agreement to split and both parties will do what it takes to end the relationship quickly. In other cases, a spouse who doesn't want the split will make the transition difficult. If your spouse won't sign the divorce papers, there are steps that you can take to move the process forward.
Even a so-called "amicable" divorce can get contentious. It's an emotionally intense transition for most people, and even if conditions weren't right for the marriage to continue, many people are resistant to change.
In some cases, a spouse will try to keep the divorce from going forward by avoiding service of divorce papers, refusing to answer to the request and refusing to sign the paperwork. Courts are used to this and see these situations daily. There are remedies available to you if your spouse is refusing to sign the divorce papers.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses decide to work out the terms of the divorce agreement and bring their proposed plan for the court to approve. Things run pretty smoothly in these divorces, and while there may be issues that the couple needs help deciding, the process is generally straightforward.
In some cases, the spouses have to work out terms of alimony, child custody and division of assets. Most divorces are uncontested — or at least they start out that way. In some cases the spouses agree to the divorce, only to become upset with the terms later down the line. This can lead to problems and stalling tactics.
If you served the papers on your spouse, they filed an uncontested response and agreed to the divorce but now won't sign the final paperwork, you now have to take additional action to move forward.
Request To Enter a Default
If you served your spouse properly and they failed to respond to the petition in a timely manner, usually within 30 days, you can ask the court to enter a default divorce. This divorce decree will also outline the terms of the judgement based on what you stipulated in your divorce petition. The judge will schedule an appearance and make a decision based on your testimony only. The spouse's failure to appear means they forfeit any input in the final judgement.
You can also use this option if you can't locate the spouse. In some cases your spouse will move and not leave a forwarding address and you can get the court to sign off on a judgement in your spouse's absence.
Dealing with an uncooperative spouse can be challenging. The longer the divorce drags out, the longer it will take for you to move on with your life. It will also make the entire process costly for everyone involved. It's not the best environment for children, if there are any, and it's just a huge hassle.
The best thing to do when your spouse is being uncooperative is to try to be flexible and find out why they are dragging their feet. In some cases, there are concessions that you can make that will satisfy your spouse and move the process along.
In the absence of a favorable compromise, the next best thing is to get an attorney to assist you with finalizing the divorce. Your attorney can file the proper paperwork to get you a fair judgement, even if your spouse is resisting or is unavailable. You may have to file for a contested divorce, where parties cannot agree, either about getting divorced or about the terms.
When choosing a lawyer, look for a firm with years of experience in working with both contested and uncontested divorces. They will assist you in moving the process forward so that you can move on with your life and get a fair judgement. Many offer free consultations.