What to Do When Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

What to Do When Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

As you prepare to file and move forward with your divorce, your spouse may complicate or even completely stop your progress by refusing to sign the divorce papers. While this situation can be taxing, you can rest assured knowing that you can take action, including enlisting help from legal professionals, to gain clarity on your situation and move forward with peace of mind. 

Here are the steps you can take to proceed with your divorce, with or without your spouse’s cooperation.

Determine If Your Divorce Papers Have Been Properly Served

Your spouse can’t sign what they haven’t received. So, the first step is to make sure that your spouse has received a petition for dissolution of marriage that you’ve filed with the family court in your jurisdiction. Note that your spouse does not need to sign the petition itself for you to file.

Your spouse must receive the petition in person, although this process is often easier said than done. Ideally, your spouse will agree to meet with you and amicably accept the papers, regardless of whether they are willing to sign or not. However, if your spouse actively avoids you or any other difficulties arise that prevent you from personally serving your spouse the divorce papers, you can hire a private process server to deliver them or, if the courts allow, send them by standard mail. 

Remember that most courts, including those in the state of Tennessee, will dismiss a divorce case in which papers have not been properly served. Your spouse will typically have 30 days to respond to your petition and, if they fail to do so, the divorce is considered “uncontested.” If your spouse also fails to show up to hearing for your uncontested divorce, the courts will file a default judgment based on your evidence and testimonies alone and grant reasonable requests. 

It is always recommended to contact a lawyer to guide you through this process and avoid any hiccups that may arise along the way.  

Find Out Why Your Spouse Is Refusing To Sign

Your spouse may refuse to cooperate with your divorce for a variety of reasons. 

Do they want to preserve your marriage? Do they wish to complicate the process for you? Are they holding out until you give up a larger portion of your shared assets? Or are they uncomfortable and upset with all the jargon and accusations that are listed in the divorce papers? 

Emotional appeals must be handled on a case-by-case basis, often requiring you to sit down with your spouse and come to a resolution together. Meanwhile, manipulative tactics to thwart your efforts towards divorce or force sacrifices in the form of assets or custody of children may delay the overall process; however, they may ultimately serve only to reflect poorly on the refusing spouse in court. To properly stand your ground, you must secure a qualified lawyer and prepare to take the necessary steps forward. 

If your spouse is refusing to sign papers because they are confused by the divorce papers or find the terms unfair, it may be worth contracting a divorce mediator who can comb through the details of the divorce with both you and your spouse and make amendments that are acceptable to both parties. 

In the end, couples who accept mediation service reach a resolution and are happy to find all divorce papers signed and ready to file and the settlement established. This process is much more private, peaceful, and speedy than a difficult and drawn-out trial. 

Move Forward With Your Divorce With Or Without A Signature

When your spouse responds to the divorce papers within 30 days but refuses to sign them, the divorce is now considered “contested,” meaning that the two parties of the marriage cannot agree on the issues and terms of the divorce and require a judge to make determinations on their behalf.  

In this case, a court hearing must take place to identify why the divorce is being contested and how best to resolve the raised issues. At the hearing, the judge will determine the legal terms of the divorce, as well as any settlements, property division, and custody agreements, by hearing each party’s case and accepting their testimonies and evidence. 

However, if your spouse refuses to show up to the court hearing, the judge will typically deem their absence as an agreement to the divorce and move forward with a default judgment with only you present. In other words, you have the right to move forward with the divorce without your spouse and their signature. 

Ask for and receive professional assistance

Whether you’re filing for divorce or have been served divorce papers, you may feel like your world has come crashing down around you. It’s a very vulnerable and confusing place to be in, which is why you need the best legal counsel possible to navigate all the ins and outs of divorce law.

Attorney Hunter Fowler has provided legal services to many individuals in your precise situation and will work with you through every detail of your divorce proceedings to ensure the final outcome is what you want for yourself and your family. Contact Hunter Fowler today to get the legal counsel you deserve.