How to File a Motion for Divorce if a Spouse Is Stalling

by Robin Elizabeth Margolis

    If you want a divorce, but your spouse is stalling, you can still get a divorce. All 50 states now offer a no-fault divorce option that allows one spouse to file for divorce on the grounds that the marriage partners have irreconcilable differences, even if the other spouse is opposed to the divorce. The paperwork that begins this process is typically called a "petition" or "complaint" for divorce -- not a motion.

    Step 1

    Explain to your spouse that state laws permit you to divorce, even if one spouse is unwilling. Because the no-fault divorce laws were gradually adopted on a state-by-state basis between 1969 and 2011, some people mistakenly believe that the only legal divorce options are "at fault" divorce, allowing divorce on very limited grounds such as adultery or impotence; thereby, giving uncooperative spouses a way to stall a divorce.

    Step 2

    Review the divorce laws for your state to see what requirements you may need to fulfill to file for divorce, such as living apart from your spouse for a specific period of time.

    Step 3

    Obtain the initial paperwork you need in your jurisdiction, either from your local courthouse or from a third-party legal document service. The court clerk can tell you what paperwork is necessary. Typically, you will obtain a petition for divorce and a summons form.

    Step 4

    Fill out the petition for divorce according to the instructions. Depending on where you live, your state may provide online examples of a petition for divorce.

    Step 5

    Fill out the summons form. A summons is a notice to your spouse asking your spouse to answer the petition for divorce by filing an answer in the court where you filed the divorce petition. Whether or not he chooses to answer the summons, however, you can still obtain a divorce.

    Step 6

    File your completed petition for divorce with your local court -- along with any other paperwork that your local jurisdiction and circumstances require -- and pay any necessary fees.

    Step 7

    Send the summons, along with a copy of your petition for divorce, to your spouse. Depending on the laws in your state, you can deliver the summons and petition in person, by certified or first-class mail, or by hiring a sheriff or a process server to deliver the papers for you.

    Tips & Warnings

    • If your spouse has disappeared, the court clerk can tell you about other options in your jurisdiction for serving your spouse by alternate means. Often, you can place a notice about the divorce proceedings in a newspaper.
    • If you have entered a covenant marriage, a religiously inspired type of marriage that allows only limited grounds for divorce or separation, your spouse may be able to delay the divorce for a longer period of time than in a no-fault divorce proceeding for a regular marriage.
    • If you and your spouse have complex child custody and property issues to deal with, you may wish to retain a lawyer who is experienced in family law.

    About the Author

    Robin Elizabeth Margolis is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been writing about health care, science, nutrition, fitness and law since 1988, and served as the editor of a health law newsletter. Margolis holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology, a master's degree in counseling and a paralegal certificate.

    Photo Credits

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