My Spouse Wants a Divorce But I Don't: Do I Still Have to Pay for the Paperwork Fees?

By Anna Green

Each state creates its own divorce laws and procedures. Thus, the exact rules and process for dissolving a marriage will be different in each jurisdiction. Generally, however, it is the petitioner, or party filing for divorce, who is responsible for paying court filing fees. Thus, if you receive divorce papers and respond to them, you may not be responsible for any court fees. In certain circumstances, however, you may incur some fees even though you do not agree to the divorce.

Filing Fees

The spouse who files for divorce is responsible for paying filing fees and other court costs related to the divorce proceedings. The court may be able to waive these fees for low-income filers, however. If you are served with divorce papers, you will not need to pay any filing fees or court costs if you simply file an answer to a divorce complaint or petition.

Uncontested and No-Fault Divorce

All states currently have some form of no-fault divorce. This means that neither spouse has to prove his or her partner acted improperly in order to dissolve the marriage. It also means that many divorce cases do not need to end in lengthy trials and incur large attorney fees. Thus, if you respond to your divorce complaint then reach a marital settlement agreement by working collaboratively with your spouse, both parties may be able to avoid some legal expenses.

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Contested Divorce and Countersuits

If your spouse is filing for divorce on fault grounds and you choose to file a countersuit, you might be responsible for paying filing fees for the countersuit. However, the court can waive these fees if you meet certain income requirements. If a contested divorce case proceeds to trial and your spouse hires an attorney, you could be responsible for his legal fees and other costs related to the trial under certain circumstances. For example, if you earn far more than your spouse, a judge might order you to pay for his lawyer to assure he has equal representation.

Divorce by Default

If you do not agree with the divorce, but do not plan to challenge your spouse’s decision to dissolve the marriage, you will not likely be responsible for any fees. If you receive divorce papers but do not respond to them, however, your spouse may obtain a divorce by default. This means the court will accept your spouse’s proposed terms of the divorce without hearing your side of the case. In other words, a divorce by default might compromise your rights.

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How to File for Divorce With No Money


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How Can a Petitioner Drop a Divorce?

If you file for divorce and later change your mind, you can ask the court to drop the case. The legal term for this action is "dismissing" your petition for divorce before it is finalized. The procedure for dismissal will depend on your state's laws as well as your spouse's response to the request. Since filing for divorce does not change your marital status, the effect of a dismissal is simply a removal of the case from the court's docket.

What Happens If Divorce Papers Go Unsigned?

During the divorce process, the court and individual spouses’ attorneys ask both parties to sign agreements, petitions and affidavits. If one spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, it is still possible for the divorce to proceed. Such refusals usually slow down the divorce process and may lead to additional hearings, trials or mediation sessions, but will not preclude the couple from ending the marriage.

Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for divorce in states that continue to allow "fault" divorces. But all fifty states now authorize no-fault divorces, allowing either spouse to dissolve a marriage citing irreconcilable differences. However, you still have the option of filing for divorce on "fault" grounds in many states.

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