Can a Spouse Refuse a Divorce?

Often, when a couple’s marriage is broken beyond repair, the one thing that they can agree on is that the next logical step is to file for divorce. However, in some cases, one spouse may not want to get divorced even though reconciliation is impossible. Depending on the circumstances, some spouses may try to refuse the divorce altogether or are unwilling to negotiate any of the divorce terms. If you are seeking a divorce, and your spouse is either unwilling or not ready to take that step, it does not mean that you have to stay in an unhappy marriage. New Jersey law allows divorce cases to proceed, even if your spouse attempts to delay the process or refuses to participate. An experienced divorce lawyer will assist you with the divorce process, protect your legal rights, and negotiate the best possible settlement outcome.

What Should I Do if My Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?

Despite your spouse’s efforts to delay or prevent the divorce from proceeding, you have the legal right to obtain a divorce. If your spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process and is unwilling to sign the divorce papers, the next step is to file a default divorce, which involves the following:

  • If your spouse has not responded to the divorce petition within 35 days, you will file a request to enter a default along with a proposed divorce judgment.
  • Notice of equitable distribution and case information statement is sent to your spouse. If they do not respond, you will serve them with a Notice of Equitable Distribution and Case Information Statement, which explains the issues that must be resolved in the divorce.
  • Obtain a divorce decree. You will ask for a final judgment once all required documents are submitted to the court. A court date will be set, and your spouse will be notified.

Ultimately, it is in both parties’ best interest to sign the necessary documents and participate in the divorce process, particularly if you are pursuing a no-fault divorce. Resisting or delaying any step of the process will not prevent the divorce from happening. It will only result in a more time-consuming, expensive, and bitter divorce, particularly if your spouse contests the divorce terms, including spousal support, custody, child support, and the division of marital property.

How Do I Know When to Go to Court?

As much as you may want to resolve your divorce as quickly as possible, this may not be possible if your spouse is not on the same page when it comes to divorce. You may have to consider the possibility of a divorce hearing, where a judge will rule on key issues like property division, custody, and spousal support. A divorce hearing can be costly and time-consuming, but your spouse may be more likely to participate, particularly if summoned to appear in court. If they fail, they will not have the opportunity to have their voice heard. Ultimately, the judge will only have your paperwork and testimony to consider, so it is more likely that you will be granted a divorce and will rule in your favor regarding custody, spousal support, and property distribution.

What if I am Unable to Locate My Spouse?

The first step in the divorce process is to file the initial divorce petition and deliver it to your spouse. However, if your spouse cannot be located, you may ask the court for permission to use an alternate method for giving notice that you have filed for divorce. If, after several attempts to locate your spouse and serve papers have been made, a judge will decide whether to grant your request and which alternative method of service to allow. In many cases, a notice is published in a newspaper.

How Can a Divorce Lawyer Help Me if My Spouse Refuses a Divorce?

It is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced divorce lawyer if you are considering a divorce or if you plan to file for divorce but your spouse is unwilling even to discuss the possibility of terminating your marriage. While nothing, or no one, can force you to stay married, your spouse can contest the divorce settlement terms, including child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and the distribution of marital property. Having a dedicated divorce lawyer on your side will help you navigate the divorce process and protect your legal rights if your spouse is unwilling to cooperate. An experienced divorce lawyer will discuss your options and how to reach an agreement with your spouse and avoid going to court.

Our Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Clients in Complicated Divorce Cases

If you are seeking a divorce and your spouse is refusing to cooperate or participate in the process, do not hesitate to contact our Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We will help you navigate every step of the divorce process, take proactive steps to encourage your spouse to reach an agreement, and negotiate the best possible settlement outcome. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.