What to Do if Your Spouse Will Not Sign Divorce Papers

By Tom Streissguth

In the case of a legal divorce, one party may not cooperate with the action, sign any agreements or negotiate any terms. The laws of each state govern the process of divorce, and all set down guidelines for actions in the case of a non-cooperative respondent.


In order to obtain a divorce, you must first file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the civil court of the county where you live. Many states have residency requirements. In California, for example, you must live in the state for at least six months and in the county where you file for at least three months, before filing the petition. In addition, there may be a waiting period imposed between the date of filing and the earliest date the court may grant the divorce.


As the petitioner, you must have the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage served on the respondent, your spouse. You can effect service through a sheriff’s department or through a private process server. The object of service is to provide legal notice to the other party of a court action. If the respondent is unavailable or avoids service, state laws provide for service through publication – the petition is placed in a newspaper or other public media, putting the other party legally on notice. The states also have laws on waiting periods between service and the deadline for an answer from the respondent.

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

Final Judgment

If you have carried out service, but the respondent still does not provide an answer or contests the divorce, you must petition for a final judgment of divorce from the court. The time needed depends on the court schedule and any laws the state may have concerning a waiting period before a final decree can be signed by a judge. In New York, for example, there is a mandatory 40-day waiting period if the respondent does not file an answer or an Affidavit of Consent, which allows the divorce to proceed immediately to a hearing. If child custody and other issues are contested by the respondent, then you must attend a hearing at which a judge or jury will hear testimony from both sides and then render a decision.

Hearings and Orders

At the hearing, either you submit a contested divorce agreement for the approval of the judge, or the court renders its own agreement. A contested marital settlement agreement does not require the signature of the respondent. If after the hearing the respondent still does not cooperate with the terms of the divorce, you must file motions and proposed orders to enforce the agreement, which will then be placed in the hands of law enforcement to carry out any seizure of property, garnishment of wages for child support and other matters.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce Dismissal Facts in Florida



Related articles

What Happens After You File for an Uncontested Divorce in Georgia?

An uncontested divorce in the state of Georgia requires the agreement of both spouses as to property division, spousal and child support, and visitation. Once both spouses sign off on the Martial Settlement Agreement, the judge may approve the divorce without any further action by the parties. If a final hearing is required, only one spouse appears before the judge to obtain the judge's signature on the divorce decree, after which the divorce is final.

Divorce Process in Georgia

Georgia state laws govern the process of divorce. The state has adopted “no-fault” divorce, meaning you do not need specific grounds to file a divorce petition, other than a claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” A hearing in civil court will be necessary, however, and the state also has residency requirements for couples seeking a divorce.

How to File for Divorce in Virginia Without a Lawyer

A divorce can be a complex, expensive and emotionally trying process. If there is a dispute between you and your spouse over child custody, property or support payments, the process becomes even more difficult and time-consuming. However, if you agree on the terms of the divorce, you may be able to carry out a legal divorce without the added expense of an attorney's time and advice.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law ...

How to Get Divorced in Michigan if Married Outside of the USA

Although Michigan divorce law varies in some ways from the divorce laws of other states, the basic principles are the ...

The Inability to Serve Divorce Papers in Texas

It's frustrating when the respondent in a lawsuit is dodging process, especially in a divorce case. Ordinarily, a ...

How to Represent Yourself At a Divorce Trial In the State of Florida

When you represent yourself in a divorce, you must follow a series of steps to move the case forward to the final trial ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED