Even the most amicable of divorces can be emotionally trying and tiring to navigate. But if your spouse is uncooperative and refuses to sign the divorce papers, it can make things even more difficult and frustrating for you. If you’ve made the decision to get a divorce, you’re probably ready to move ahead with it so that you can focus on getting a fresh start. Having your spouse dig in their heels and refuse to sign the documents might leave you feeling angry, confused, and desperate to move things along. If you’re in this situation, here’s what you need to know about how to proceed.
Why Aren’t They Signing?
First and foremost, it’s important to try to understand the reasons for your spouse refusing to sign. There can be many different motivations for this action. Are they still hoping to work things out and preserve your marriage? In these cases, sitting down and clearly explaining to your spouse that you’re not happy in your marriage any longer may be able to persuade them to sign.
Are they trying to use this refusal as leverage to get you to give up certain assets or custody of your children? Some people think that refusing to sign will give them power over their spouse, making the other party desperate enough that they’ll make sacrifices simply to move the divorce along. If you think this is their motivation, don’t give into their manipulations. Talk to your attorney about how to proceed.
Another common reason we see for a spouse to refuse to sign divorce documents is simply to make things more difficult for their spouse. Divorces can often bring out the worst in people, and a spouse may refuse to sign the paperwork for a while solely to cause trouble. While it’s a somewhat petty action, both spouses usually end up signing the paperwork in the end, as it’s clear that neither of them are happy.
Why do your spouse’s motivations matter? Simply put, knowing the reason behind their refusal to sign helps you to better understand the best way to respond to this action. Whether you need to just sit down and have a talk, wait it out, or draw a hard line with negotiations will be based on what your spouse is hoping to achieve by refusing to sign the paperwork.
Can You Still Get a Divorce?
If your spouse has refused to sign the divorce papers, you might be panicking and wondering if you can still get a divorce or if you’re stuck in the marriage because of their action. The good news is that most states, including Florida, are “no-fault” states; this means you don’t have to prove that one spouse has done something wrong that led to the divorce. Rather, you can simply state that you feel the marriage is unsalvageable and continue to file for divorce.
You and your divorce attorney will simply have to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the courts. This can be done without a spouse’s signature. After filing, the paperwork will be served to your spouse by a process server. Your spouse will then have 20 days to file a response with the court. At this point, it will be in their best interest to finally respond to your filing; if they don’t respond within 20 days, the court will rule it to be an uncontested divorce.
Assuming your spouse does not file a response, a judge will file a default hearing on your uncontested divorce. You must attend and request the divorce in person; the court will then ask you about matters regarding property division and child custody. Assuming your spouse has still refused to show, the court will generally grant the reasonable requests of whichever spouse has appeared at the default hearing. However, you should still speak to an attorney about these matters.
So, if you can file a petition to end your marriage without your spouse’s signature, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why bother trying to get your spouse to sign documents at all? The simple truth of it is that proceeding with a divorce is always easier when both parties are able to cooperate with one another.
If your spouse is refusing to sign the paperwork they’ve been served, then odds are that they’re not going to be very cooperative in negotiating important facets of your divorce, such as division of assets, spousal support, and child custody issues. This can lead to a host of complications after you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, so it’s incredibly important you have a skilled divorce attorney on your side.
If you’ve filed for divorce and your spouse has refused to sign the paperwork, contact Harr Law to schedule a consultation. We’ll provide you with expert advice on the best way to proceed.