Can the Respondent Finalize a Divorce if the Petitioner Won't Sign?

By Beverly Bird

Sometimes a spouse files for divorce only to find out that the process is not going exactly the way she anticipated. She might realize that a court isn’t likely to grant her everything she asked for in her petition, or that you won’t agree to everything she wants in a marital settlement agreement. However, once the proceedings are under way, there’s only so much she can do to stall them. This is true even if she was the one who filed for divorce first.

Sometimes a spouse files for divorce only to find out that the process is not going exactly the way she anticipated. She might realize that a court isn’t likely to grant her everything she asked for in her petition, or that you won’t agree to everything she wants in a marital settlement agreement. However, once the proceedings are under way, there’s only so much she can do to stall them. This is true even if she was the one who filed for divorce first.

Marital Settlement Agreement

The only papers a petitioning spouse must sign are her original petition or complaint, and possibly a marital settlement agreement if you've resolved the issues of your marriage through negotiation and consent. She does not have to sign a decree for your divorce to become final if it is issued by the court after a trial. She doesn’t have to sign a marital settlement agreement either, if she decides she doesn’t like its terms. This is a document she’s entering into voluntarily, so the court won't force her to do so. However, this doesn’t prevent you from divorcing -- it only prevents you from settling out of court.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Trial

Eventually, if you and your spouse do not submit a marital settlement agreement to the court, the court will schedule a trial. If a trial is scheduled, a judge will decide issues of property division, custody and support for you. If she wants to prevent this from happening, your ex's only option is to withdraw or dismiss her divorce petition. This will end your divorce proceedings. However, you can file your own divorce petition the next day and begin the process again. If you do this and she doesn't respond, the court will grant you a divorce by default, without her cooperation.

Amending Your Pleadings

You might be able to prevent your spouse from withdrawing or dismissing her divorce petition under some circumstances. When your spouse served you with her petition, you or your attorney probably filed an answering pleading with the court. This might have been an “appearance,” simply letting the court know that you want to be involved in the case. It might have been an “answer,” responding to fault allegations in her petition or the terms by which she wants to end your marriage. In both cases, she can end the proceedings by dismissing her petition. However, if you filed an “answer and counterclaim,” she can’t stop the divorce proceedings by withdrawing her petition because a counterclaim acts as your own lawsuit for divorce. If you think your spouse might dismiss her petition, speak with a lawyer or the court to find out if you can amend your appearance or your answer into a counterclaim. Some states will allow you to file a counterclaim in addition to your answer or appearance, as a second document.

Motions to Dismiss

If your spouse is dragging her feet and you want to force a trial rather than wait for the court to schedule one for you, you can take matters into your own hands. You can file a motion to let the court know she’s not cooperating. Alternatively, you can file a motion to ask the court to dismiss her petition because she has failed to prosecute her case by moving forward with the proceedings. You would have to start the divorce process over again by filing your own petition, but you can ask the court to order her to pay your counsel fees and legal fees with such a motion. The court might grant your request because she forced you to spend this money by filing a divorce lawsuit that she didn’t intend to complete. Such punitive damages might convince her to resume negotiations and sign the settlement agreement after all.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
The Response to a Petition for Dissolution

References

Related articles

Does My Husband Need My Permission to Cancel the Divorce?

Both spouses do not have to consent to a divorce for the court to grant one. All states recognize no-fault divorce, which means that if one spouse wants to end the marriage, there is nothing the other spouse can do to prevent it from happening. If your husband changes his mind and wants to stop the divorce after he’s begun it, he does not need your consent. However, you can still divorce. Your options for proceeding with the divorce vary depending on the papers each of you filed.

What Is the Process for Getting a Divorce in GA?

Most states share similar divorce procedures. In all jurisdictions, a complaint for divorce is required to begin the proceedings. One spouse must file it with the court, and in most cases, the other spouse will answer it. The two parties then exchange financial information and either reach a settlement or go to trial for a judge to decide the terms of their divorce for them. Georgia also requires special attention to parenting issues during the divorce process.

Can You Just Not Do Anything in a Divorce if You Are the Respondent?

Your spouse is required to serve you with divorce papers after she files for divorce, including her divorce petition, or complaint, and a summons. Generally, the summons lists deadlines for you to respond to the petition or provides scheduling information for your initial appearance in court. If you choose to ignore the summons, the court still may enter a judgment against you.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Is a Counterclaim for Divorce?

When your spouse serves you with divorce papers, the worst thing you can do is nothing. If you don't respond, you run ...

Retracting a Divorce

Enough couples change their minds about going through with their divorces that most states have built-in legislation to ...

How to Stop a Divorce After the Papers Have Been Filed

If you’re not the spouse who filed for divorce, you probably can’t stop the process. You can contest the ...

How to Put My Divorce on Hold

Courts don’t want you to divorce, and most state laws are set up to allow you time to make sure a divorce is what ...

Browse by category