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Can a Spouse Refuse to Sign a Divorce Paper?

Can a Spouse Refuse to Sign a Divorce Paper

The short answer is yes. Of course, no one can be forced to sign a document in the United States. However, they can’t stop you from getting divorced. Utah law allows for you to get divorced if you have irreconcilable differences – meaning, you don’t get along anymore and you want out. When a spouse refuses to sign a divorce paper, the spouse seeking a divorce will need to obtain what is called contested divorce.
A contested divorce can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful. If divorcing couples can work together and compromise in order to agree on all of their divorce-related issues, they may be good candidates for an uncontested divorce, which is a simpler, faster way to end your marriage. Each state has specific requirements; To file a contested divorce, the party who wishes to obtain the divorce must file a petition or request in the family court in their jurisdiction.

Separation Agreement

Some divorces start with an agreement about separation. That agreement usually contains the information such as who will live where, who will pay the bill and who will get the kids. This agreement is not a court grant .you can draw it up by yourself or with the divorce attorney counsel but if your spouse would not sign that agreement then there is little you can do. It is like a business contract that is signed by only one party, it is really meaningless until it signed by the both parties.

Reasons why a spouse refuse to sign divorce papers

When marriages fall apart, both parties often want the divorce process to progress as quickly as possible. However, cases occur when one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers for various reasons ranging from a desire to seek greater financial support to a genuine desire to remain married. However, in the United States, one spouse cannot prevent another spouse from obtaining a divorce. Consult with an attorney who specializes in family law and divorce with specific questions about ending a marriage. Many states impose waiting periods on couples before granting a no-fault divorce. Waiting periods vary from six months to as long as a year or two years. Waiting periods are designed to allow couples to make efforts to reconcile their marriages or to be certain that reconciliation is impossible. Individuals may still pursue no-fault divorce in situations where one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers; however the required waiting period may be longer than if both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage. Spouses often refuse to sign divorce papers because they are uncomfortable with the language used and accusations made as part of a fault divorce. One way to prevent this problem is to agree to file the divorce under no fault grounds, after which you may find it easier to persuade your spouse to sign the papers.

Covenant Marriages

Covenant marriages are designed to reduce the number of broken marriages by requiring counseling and imposing restrictions on obtaining a divorce. Couples must agree before tying the knot that they intend to enter into a covenant marriage and undergo counseling before obtaining a divorce. Although several states have pursued possible legislation concerning covenant marriage, as of 2011, only Arizona, Louisiana and Arkansas have laws on the books. If you are involved in a covenant marriage, you may find it difficult to obtain a no-fault divorce without enduring a lengthy waiting period, whether your spouse is cooperative or not.
In Michigan, you may be relieved to know, the short answer is “no.” If one spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse cannot prevent it. If your spouse refuses to participate in the process, your divorce can be finalized within a matter of months.

Signatures Required for a Divorce

There are several points in the divorce process when legal documents have to be signed. But there is also a defined process for what happens if one spouse refuses to participate in the process. Here is how that works:
To start the divorce process, you (or rather, your attorney) will file a divorce complaint with the local district court. The divorce petition spells out your preferred terms for the divorce: division of property, child custody, etc. You may be in a hurry to get divorced, but you should take the time to get these terms right. Your future financial security and the well-being of your children are at stake.
The divorce petition, along with a summons, is then hand delivered to your spouse. Ideally, your spouse signs the summons form to indicate their receipt of the divorce papers, but proof of service can be provided to the court even without such signature. If your spouse wants to contest any of the terms of the divorce in the divorce complaint, they have 21 to 30 days to deliver their response to the court.

If your spouse does not respond to the divorce complaint by the deadline, you can ask the court commissioner or judge for a default decree of divorce. However, your divorce cannot be finalized until the mandatory waiting period has passed. Currently there is a required 30-day waiting period between the time the divorce complaint is filed and when the court will issue a final judgment of divorce (sometimes called the divorce decree or divorce settlement). When children are involved, sometimes the process is further delayed.

At the end of the waiting period, the court will issue the requested default judgment, and your divorce will be final. The judge’s signature is sufficient. Your spouse does not need to sign it. The terms of the divorce will be those laid out in the original divorce complaint, as long as those terms comply with Michigan law. For example, parenting arrangements must be in the children’s best interests, and the division of marital property must be equitable.

Contested Divorce

When a spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, the divorce is no longer placed on hold, but instead considered contested. Once the divorce becomes contested, a hearing must take place in order to establish the reasons for contesting the divorce and for the court to resolve those reasons.
If both spouses show for the hearing, the court will determine the legal terms of the divorce through testimony and evidence. The court will also decide on all settlements and divisions of property. In the interim, there are some things that you can do to try and resolve the issues and avoid allowing the court to make the decisions for you

Divorce by Default Proceeding

If the spouse refuses to show for the scheduled divorce hearing and all attempts at negotiating have failed, the original filing spouse has the right to request a default divorce. In this instance, the court will uphold the divorce request and all of the original terms. This means that all divisions of property, child support amounts and custodial arrangements listed in the divorce papers will be the court’s final decision.
The reason the courts make this decision is because the court considers the opposing spouse’s absence to be an agreement to the terms of the divorce. The court will make the default finding as long as the other spouse was truly served with the petition. In worst case scenarios, a woman might find herself dealing with a husband who refuses to cooperate, and who stymies efforts to begin the legal separation.
Is It A Matter of Reluctance on the Part of the Husband or Belligerence?
People change. Relationships change. But sometimes, one party in the relationship doesn’t realize a change has occurred. While a woman who finds herself in this type of scenario shouldn’t hesitate to consult a family law attorney to discuss her options, the solution might first lie in helping the husband to understand that things have changed.
It’s important to remember that a woman who’s been contemplating separation for a while has had the benefit of experiencing and understanding the change in her feelings for a long time. It might not be wise to come out guns blazing with a divorce petition. Family counseling might be in order. A licensed mental health professional will ideally help spouses in this situation untangle their emotions so that they can proceed with the next steps. Simply put, the answer might be more time.

What if Husband refuses all Cooperation in the Divorce?

If your husband insists on stonewalling, the judge will issue a divorce by default. However, filing errors made on your part could potentially draw out the process. This is why it’s so important that you speak to a lawyer if you’re dealing with a difficult ex to make sure you consider every potential pitfall.

If you told your husband you want a divorce, and he refuses to leave the house, what now?

If your husband is abusive to either you or your children, or struggles with it might be possible obtain a restraining order. This should be done with the help of an attorney.

However, if a restraining order is not possible, and the husband either owns the house, or you both own the house, it might be necessary to decide if it might be better for you to move out while the divorce proceeds. Or, depending on the situation, you might file the divorce petition and request temporary custody of the children. If successful, this will diminish your husband’s ability to leverage the children while you pursue finalization of the divorce.


If you and your spouse have been unable to reach an agreement on a divorce settlement you, with the help of your attorneys or mediators if you are using them—may decide to submit the areas under dispute before a judge at a pretrial conference. This sort of conference normally takes place in court.

How to Obtain a Divorce When Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

No one can stop you from getting a divorce if you want one, with the possible exception of the court. If your partner or spouse refuses to settle the current divorce agreement, your divorce will be considered a contested case and will generally require more time energy than an uncontested divorce. The good news is that while your spouse may legally make your divorce more difficult, they cannot keep you married once you initiate the divorce proceedings. With patience, determination and a willingness to study the laws, practically anyone can take the steps to resolving their divorce case.
• Step 1
Contact your spouse and discover their reasons for refusing to sign the divorce document. Find out if there are specific requests that you feel comfortable meeting to obtain their compliance and decide whether you are willing to meet their demands.
• Step 2
Call your local courthouse and discover the procedure for filing a petition against your spouse. Determine which court you must use to make your claim–generally a family court–and fill out the petition stating that the marriage has dissolved.
• Step 3
Complete the necessary legal follow-ups, such as a review of the shared assets and property owned by you and your spouse. Carefully read any documents sent to you in regards to the legal requirements of child support, visitation and custody, and contact your spouse to discuss the legal divisions.
• Step 4
Prepare the evidence for the basis of divorce along with any other issues that may require legal resolution during the divorce case. Hire a lawyer to represent your case if desired and present your information in the court of law. Once you and your partner have presented your cases in turn, you will receive a determination of the divorce and a judgment for divorce issued by the court.
• Step 5
Follow up the legal decision by transferring any deeds, property and assets paying any child support as required by law.

This post is to provide some basic information for those in Utah who are considering a divorce, but aren’t convinced their spouses are ready to deal with reality. In these cases both spouses need to discuss the difficulties of their life. They should sort out the matters by themselves, if they can’t then they can appeal to court for their controversy ideas and decisions to sort out as early as possible.

Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help because your spouse refuses to sign a divorce paper, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506