My Spouse Won’t Sign Our Divorce Papers – Now What?

Getting divorced is stressful enough. If your spouse is refusing to participate in the process, it can add to your stress. But don’t give up: Their refusal to participate does not mean you can’t get divorced. You have options.

You can get divorced without your spouse’s signature

Let’s say you want a divorce, but your spouse refuses to sign the petition. This happens frequently, especially when spouses have been living apart for some time and may not be on speaking terms. What are your options?

When filing for divorce, the first step after you've filed your petition is to serve the divorce petition on your spouse. This involves having someone else physically deliver a copy of the petition to them, either by mail or in person. 

It's important to follow proper legal procedures when serving the petition to make sure it’s valid and legally binding. Read How to Serve Divorce Papers on Your Spouse for more information.

Even if your spouse refuses to sign the petition, you can get divorced. In this scenario, you would need to file for a contested divorce and go through court proceedings to resolve any issues related to property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, and other matters.

File this paperwork if your spouse won’t cooperate

If your spouse refuses to sign an acknowledgment of receiving the divorce petition, it can complicate the process, but there are steps you can take.

  • As the petitioner, you would need to prove that you made a reasonable effort to serve your spouse with divorce papers. This typically involves providing evidence, such as delivery receipts or affidavits from the process server.
  • If your spouse continues to refuse to acknowledge receipt of the petition, you could request a true default judgment.

In a true default divorce, the court grants a divorce without requiring both parties to appear in court. Before this can happen, however, you must show that you made every effort possible to serve your spouse with the divorce papers and have waited a prerequisite amount of time for a response. 

A court will not issue a true default divorce quickly or without substantial certainty that the other party is refusing to participate.

When one spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process, it makes a settlement virtually impossible. So, the judge is likely to side with the petitioner on all divorce terms, such as child custody, property division, and other issues.

Timeline for true default divorce

The timeline for a true default divorce varies by state. Generally, it involves the following steps:

  1.  You file a motion for a true default judgment with the court.
  2.  You provide evidence that you made reasonable efforts to serve your spouse with the divorce papers.
  3.  You wait for the court to schedule a hearing on your motion.
  4.  You attend the hearing and present evidence of your attempts to serve your spouse.
  5.  You wait for the judge to issue a ruling granting or denying your motion.

If the judge grants your motion, they will issue a final divorce decree based on what is fair and equitable under state law. This may involve decisions related to property division, child custody, and support payments.

Watch: My Spouse Won't Participate in Our Divorce, Now What?


FAQ about divorcing an uncooperative spouse

What if my spouse accuses me of something I didn’t do to avoid divorce?

This can be a difficult situation to navigate. It's important to stay calm and gather as much evidence as possible to refute any false claims.

One option is to try to resolve the issue through mediation or negotiation with your spouse. This can involve bringing in a neutral third party, such as a mediator, who can help facilitate discussions and find common ground between both parties.

If mediation is not successful, it may be necessary to go through court proceedings. In this case, it's important to work closely with an experienced family law attorney who can help you build a strong case and present evidence to counter any false accusations made by your spouse.

Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Divorce Mediation 

What if my spouse threatens me or my children because I want a divorce?

If your spouse is threatening you or your children because you want a divorce, it's important to protect yourself and your family. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Document everything. Keep a log of any threats made by your spouse, including the date and time of each incident.
  • Put safety first. Every domestic violence situation is different. Your actions could have consequences, so be sure that safety is always on your radar. If you need it, get help. Consider calling 1-800-799-7233, or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
  • Consider counseling. Divorce can be an emotional and stressful time for everyone involved. Consider seeking counseling for yourself and your children in order to cope with any trauma caused by the situation.

Remember that threats of violence should always be taken seriously, and there are resources available to help keep you safe during this difficult time.

What if my spouse skips the final hearing?

If your spouse skips the final hearing for your divorce, there are several possible outcomes. Here are a few:

The judge may give your spouse a second chance.

If there is a valid reason why your spouse missed the final hearing, such as illness or a family emergency, the judge may grant them another opportunity to attend. In this case, the court will schedule a new hearing date and notify both parties.

The judge may proceed with the divorce.

If your spouse fails to show up to the final hearing without a valid reason, the judge may choose to proceed with the divorce. In this case, they will review all evidence presented by you and your attorney and make a decision based on that information.

Your divorce may be delayed.

If your spouse misses the final hearing and does not provide a valid reason for their absence, it's possible that the court will delay your divorce until your spouse can be located and served with notice of another hearing date.

At Hello Divorce, we understand that no two divorce cases are alike and that clients need individualized help. That’s why we offer a range of customizable online divorce plans and a menu of individually priced services for you to choose from.

To learn more about what we offer, please schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our account coordinators using the link below.