What Happens If You Refuse to Sign a Settlement Agreement?

Can you refuse to sign a settlement agreement?

You can refuse to sign a settlement agreement, and you may have good reason to do so.

Divorces can be messy. Researchers say major contributors to divorce include lack of commitment, arguments, and infidelity. When settlement agreement conversations begin, you may be in no mood to collaborate with your partner. Anger is very common in this process. 

But you may also have good reasons for refusing your partner’s offer. You may think the terms are any of the following:

  • Unfair: You think you deserve a larger share of the assets or a smaller part of the debts. 
  • Unsafe: You think the plans will leave you in a precarious position. 
  • Unclear: The terms just don’t make sense to you. 
  • Invalid: Some of the ideas in the draft may contradict your understanding of local laws. 

Your spouse can’t pressure you to sign any settlement agreement. If something seems off to you, rejecting the offer is within your rights. 

What are the consequences of your refusal?

Settlement agreements presented to you are one-time opportunities. If you don’t accept the terms as they’re written, your chance to do so disappears. If you’re hasty, you could reject a deal that benefits you. 

For example, your ex might present a settlement agreement that comes with a $5,000 lump sum payment and $500 per month in spousal support for two years. You might reject that offer as too small. Their next plan may offer you a larger share of assets, which would mean more taxes for you that bite into your profits. 

Think carefully before you reject a settlement agreement. The next offer you get could be less beneficial. In some cases, you won’t get another offer at all. 

In a worst-case scenario, your partner could refuse to give you another settlement agreement and force you to go to court. Your divorce would take longer and be much more expensive as a result. 

What happens after your refusal?

You’re not required to file paperwork or otherwise officially reject the presented plans. You can simply tell your spouse you don’t approve and won’t sign. 

You’re not required to file paperwork or otherwise officially reject the presented plans. You can simply tell your spouse you don’t approve and won’t sign. 

Several potential next steps are available, including the following:

  • Ask for a revision. Tell your spouse what you don’t like about the settlement agreement, and request a version that incorporates your changes. 
  • Send a revision. Use the rejected version as a draft, and send your approved document to your spouse. 
  • Enter mediation. If you’ve traded documents several times, an impartial third party could break through the disagreements and help you compromise. This is often the easiest and least expensive path to resolution.
  • Go to trial. If everything fails and you simply can’t agree, you must go to court to draft final divorce documents. This is the most expensive, time-consuming, and stressful path forward and generally preferable to avoid.

While you may not want to collaborate with your spouse, staying out of court is usually a less stressful experience. Fight for your rights, but remember that no one gets everything they want in a divorce. Give a little, and you might get the things that are really important to you. 

Should you ask for help before you refuse?

If your judgment is truly clouded by your feelings about your spouse, don’t make this decision alone. Ask a lawyer or legal coach to look over the last settlement agreement your spouse sent over. This impartial professional could help you decide if the plans are beneficial (or not) and help you determine the right steps. 


Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education. (June 2013). Couple and Family Psychology.