Types of Divorce

Filing for a divorce may be one of the most difficult choices an adult makes in their lifetime. Your first act may be to decide what type of divorce to file:

  • In a contested divorce, there are disagreements between the two parties on issues such as child custody, child support, or the division of property. Contested marriage dissolutions can be very expensive and last for years. You may want to consult an attorney if your divorce is contested.
  • An uncontested divorce is when the responding party, or the defendant, agrees not to fight the divorce. The divorcing spouses may create a property settlement agreement or child custody agreement between themselves.

If there are no children or property involved, a declaration of mutual consent in some states allows for a smoother and quicker end to the judicial process. The key is that both parties agree to the divorce and are taking steps to complete the process. OnlineDivorcer will walk you through the process to see if you qualify for an uncontested divorce and then help you with completing the paperwork.

What if one Spouse Doesn't Want a Divorce or Refuses to Participate?

Once the divorce documents filled out, filed with your local court, and properly served to the other party a timeline is set into motion:

  • In many states the other party has 30 days to respond, longer if they are out of state or out of the country.
  • If there is no response or the response is received within the allotted time and the defendant agrees to the divorce the court will treat the divorce as uncontested.

In some instances, a marriage dissolution will begin uncontested but the other party may later decide to not participate in the process or sign the final paperwork. Many states will allow the plaintiff, the person who initiated a marriage dissolution, to file a request to enter a default divorce in case of the other’s party’s failure to respond to divorce papers or refusal to participate.

The request to enter a default divorce is usually filed after the party stops participating and the marriage dissolution has stalled or if a party misses mandatory court dates. In the request to enter a default divorce, a petitioner is asking the court to grant them a divorce based on the actions, or lack of thereof, of the other party.

Here is how it usually goes:

  • A motion or request is filed with the court and served to the other spouse.
  • The other party has the right to respond, usually within 30 days, to the request to enter a default divorce.
  • If there is no response to the request to enter a default divorce, a judge may grant the request and enter the divorce.
  • Alternatively, a judge may set a hearing to get more information before deciding to grant or deny the request.
  • If there are no children or property involved, or if there was a previous settlement agreement which addressed these issues, a judge may grant the default divorce without a hearing.

A judge will base his or her decisions on the contents of the request to enter a default divorce, so it is important to be clear when writing the request. List the reasons why you are requesting to enter a default marriage dissolution – that the other spouse has not responded to paperwork, they have not attended court dates, or that they refuse to sign the final documents. Some states may also require you to detail the steps taken to fix the situation. A judge may ask for proof of service to make sure that the other party received the necessary divorce forms. It is important to have copies of all documents you file with the court and to save all correspondence between you and your spouse.

What to Do if A Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers?

Divorce is not just a legal process – it is an emotional one as well. Ending a marriage may bring up feelings of anger, betrayal, and grief. The longer the process goes on, the more these feelings may intensify, leading to a previously uncontested divorce turning bitter. By not responding to paperwork, missing court dates, or strategically filing motions or responses, a party may drag a marriage dissolution out for years in order to hurt the other spouse or in a misguided attempt to save the marriage.

If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, there may be an emotional reason behind it. What should you do in such a case?

  • If the relationship between you and your spouse is still friendly, you can try explaining to them why you are seeking a divorce and that it is in the best interests of both parties to sign the paperwork. Telling the other person directly that there is no hope of getting back together may force them to finally sign the paperwork.
  • Another option is to use a mediator to discuss why the spouse refuses to sign the paperwork or resolve any issues. A mediator is a third party, usually an experienced attorney or a retired judge, who tries to help the divorcees reach an agreement. A mediator’s decision is not binding on the parties. Mediation may be provided by the court for a small fee or a private mediator can be hired by either or both spouses.

Can the respondent finalize a divorce if the petitioner won't sign anyway? Yes, if the relationship between the divorcees has broken down to the point that speaking to the other party is unproductive, then going through the added time to file the request to enter a default divorce may be your best option. A judge will make the final decision rather than the divorcing spouses.

Generally, judges do not try to keep a person who no longer wishes to be married legally tied to their spouse against their will. Once a judge signs a divorce decree, the parties are legally divorced, even if one party refused to sign the final paperwork. A judge is the final authority – you may need to use all of the available tools, like a request to enter a default divorce, to ask them to finalize the divorce when the other side is not willing to participate.