What If I Don't Want to Sign Divorce Papers?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

What If I Don't Want to Sign Divorce Papers?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

It is not uncommon for one party to institute divorce proceedings while the other party to the marriage still thinks the marriage can be saved. Unfortunately, divorce is not a two way street. You do not have to agree to it for the court to grant your spouse's request to end the marriage. However, if you choose not to participate in the process, you may find yourself dissatisfied with the way the court allocates assets, and debts, calculates child support and alimony, and determines child custody.

Woman sitting at a table with a cup of coffee and a document with a wedding band sitting on top.  A man hands her a pen from across the table

Receiving Notice of the Filing of a Petition

A divorce case begins in court with the filing of a petition, sometimes referred to as a complaint. Once your spouse files this petition, they must provide you with notice of the filing. The notice serves two purposes. First, the notice tells you a petition has been filed, provides your spouse's grounds for the divorce, and details your spouse's proposal for temporary child custody, child support, and alimony (or lack thereof). Second, the notice tells you how long you have to file an “answer" to the petition.

If you fail to file an answer to the petition, your spouse's version of events remain the only version on file with the court. Barring any illegality, the court will have little choice but to grant your spouse's request based on their filing alone. Of course, if your spouse proposes, for example, you pay more child support than is supported by law, the court will likely modify the request.

Filing an Answer

When you don't agree with the contents of your spouse's petition, you have the option of filing an answer. In some states, a spouse can ask for a divorce based on adultery, physical or mental cruelty, abandonment, and other conduct-based reasons. If your spouse files on such a ground, you can dispute it in your answer.

Your answer is also your opportunity to propose alternate child custody arrangements. You can also request an alternate child support calculation, particularly if you feel your spouse has not adequately disclosed their income by including overtime, tips, or side jobs.

In most states, a person may file for divorce citing an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences. While you have the right to dispute allegations of adultery, physical or mental cruelty, or abandonment, when one party reports the marriage is irretrievably broken, you cannot litigate that issue.

Coming to an Agreement

It can take some time to adjust to the idea that your spouse wants a divorce. However, once you come to terms with it, it is possible you and your spouse may be able to come to an agreement regarding child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of assets and debts. This is referred to as an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can come to terms and settle on these issues, then you can avoid a drawn out process with both parties airing dirty laundry in court, on the record.

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.

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