How to Get a Divorce When One Spouse Won't Agree

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Get a Divorce When One Spouse Won't Agree

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

You can still get a divorce even if your spouse does not want one. States do not force a couple to stay together if one person no longer wants to be married. However, it can definitely complicate the process if the other party does not want to go through with it.

Woman and man sitting at a desk arguing

In addition, you must follow the proper legal procedure or else a judge may deny it and force you to start over. When you are ready, follow these steps when beginning the divorce process.

1. Determine the grounds for divorce.

The first step is deciding what grounds you want to use to file. All states require that you give a reason in your petition for ending your marriage. Every state now has a "no-fault" divorce, meaning that you do not have to prove someone was at fault in order to obtain this. Your spouse generally cannot contest this type.

2. Serve papers on the other party.

Once you have completed and filed your petition, you must give notice. Each state has different rules that govern how to legally serve someone. You can call the county court, a legal aid service, or a local attorney to figure out your state's rules. It is important that you ensure all legal requirements are met. If improperly served, they can challenge it in court and temporarily block proceedings. You can still get a divorce, but you will have to start the process all over again.

3. Wait the required number of days.

Once the other party has been served with the petition, state law gives them a certain period of time to answer. If they file a timely response with the court, you generally have to resolve the issues in court as opposed to a settlement.

4. Ask for a default judgment.

If they ignore the papers and fail to file a response, you can call the court and ask how to move forward with a default judgment. In most states, this requires filing a request and appearing at a hearing to testify that you have met your state's filing requirements. A judge may grant your divorce if you have met all requirements.

5. Prepare for trial.

If they filed a timely response to the petition, the court begins the divorce proceedings. It will oversee issues such as division of marital property, child support, custodial issues, and alimony. Gather all of the appropriate documentation that you need in order to satisfy what you are requesting in terms of financial support, etc. You will also want to be able to prove the value of your assets, along with potential outstanding debts. The court can use this when determining how to equitably divide property.

You can also write a proposed parenting plan to address custody of your children. If your spouse agrees, the court generally approves it. However, if both parties cannot come to an agreement over such issues, the court will end up making a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.

If you are ready to take these next steps, first speak to your significant other before anything else. Sometimes simply talking out the issues at hand can help you both come to an agreement before beginning divorce proceedings.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.