How to Get a Divorce Without Spouse Consent

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Get a Divorce Without Spouse Consent

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

If you want to end your marriage, you probably want it to end as quickly as possible. If your spouse refuses to cooperate because they do not want a divorce or if you are unable to locate your spouse, it adds a layer of complexity to the process. However, it is still possible to get a divorce even under such circumstances by following these steps.

Woman with short hair and glasses writing on a document while another woman watches from across the desk

1. Understand your state's laws and requirements.

Every state's laws are different, so it is important to understand the laws in the state where you want to get divorced. Check your state's residency requirements to file for divorce and decide whether you will file a no-fault divorce or base your divorce on fault grounds if your state allows this option.

If you want to get divorced without your spouse's consent, a no-fault divorce may be an easier option. That's because, in a no-fault divorce, the divorce papers do not name either of you as the party responsible for ending your marriage. A family law attorney licensed in your state can help you understand your legal options and the divorce process.

2. Petition the court and pay fees.

When you are ready to initiate the process, file your petition for divorce with the Clerk of Court in the county and state where you want to dissolve your marriage. Pay the filing fee to the court when you file your petition. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver. Check with the court to learn more and to apply.

3. Serve notice of the divorce filing.

Your state's laws define how you must serve notice of the divorce filing on your spouse, or legally notify your spouse of your filing. Generally, it is not sufficient to hand-deliver the divorce papers. Instead, use certified mail or use the sheriff's office for service of process.

If you do not know where your spouse resides, you can pay a locator service to find them. In some cases, state laws allow for service by publication.

4. Wait for your spouse's response to the filing.

Your spouse has a period of time to respond to the divorce papers according to state law. Wait for this period to pass, even if you are certain your spouse will not respond or consent to the filing. If your spouse does not respond at all, you may be able to obtain a default divorce. In that case, the judge will likely side with you, granting the divorce based on your initial filing.

If your spouse contests some or all of the provisions in your initial filing, your divorce is a contested divorce. In this situation, the judge hears both sides of the case and rules based on all available information.

5. Attend hearings and respond to motions.

Protect your rights through the divorce process by being an active participant in the process, even if your spouse is not cooperating. Attend scheduled hearings and court dates and provide responses or answers to your spouse's filings and court requests, as applicable.

Although the process of obtaining a divorce without spousal consent is sometimes longer and more complex than a simple divorce where both spouses agree and cooperate, it is still possible to terminate your marriage.

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.