Separation Made Simple: Do Both Parties Have to Sign Divorce Papers?

It’s common knowledge that about half of all marriages in America end in divorce, but you may not know that this 50% divorce rate is the sixth-highest in the world.

Some divorces are relatively peaceful, but plenty of people find the process incredibly difficult. Many spouses disagree with the divorce and do all they can to prevent it. A common tactic is refusing to sign divorce papers.

Do both parties have to sign divorce papers? Read on to learn all about contested divorces.

Initiating the Process

Divorce proceedings start when one party, the Petitioner, files a petition for divorce.  Depending on the state, they also need to file a few other pieces of paperwork with the court. The Complaint about the Dissolution of Marriage is always among them.

Once they notify the court, the spouse, the Respondent, must be served the paperwork. They have a set amount of time to alert the court that they have received notice. This involves signing the divorce paperwork.

If both parties sign the paperwork, the divorce is uncontested and can continue through the legal system. This is the preferred way for divorce proceedings to commence.

In some cases, the couple may not even need to appear before a judge and can usually get the divorce granted sooner.

Do Both Parties Have to Sign Divorce Papers?

Generally speaking, if one person wants to get a divorce, a judge will eventually grant it. That means that both parties don’t need to sign the divorce paperwork. A spouse can’t stop the process by refusing to sign the paperwork.

However, a spouse’s refusal to cooperate will cause the divorce proceedings to drag on much longer than they would have otherwise.

Why Would Someone Avoid Signing Divorce Papers?

There are many reasons a spouse won’t sign divorce papers. Here are a few possible instances.

Prefer to Stay Married

Most couples expect their marriage to be successful, so someone who refuses to sign the appropriate paperwork could be attempting to save their marriage. They might feel that the issues in their relationship can be worked out with time or counseling.

Make Life Difficult

Some individuals won’t sign divorce paperwork out of spite for their soon-to-be-former spouse. Without signed documents in hand, obtaining a divorce is much more costly and time-consuming.

Don’t Agree to Terms

Most states require the Petitioner to state a cause for pursuing a divorce and outline the terms and conditions they want from the proceeding.

When some disgruntled individuals don’t agree with the reasoning or terms, they attempt to demonstrate their dissatisfaction by not signing the divorce papers.

This isn’t the appropriate way to fight a divorce, but someone without proper legal representation might try it.

Do Both Spouses Have to Agree with a Divorce?

Some spouses refuse to cooperate with divorce proceedings. In this instance, the divorce is considered contested. Contested divorces generally take much longer to grant, but proceedings will continue.

Those attempting to avoid divorce have a few common ways of prolonging the process. The first is to refuse to agree to “no fault” grounds of divorce.

The second way is to avoid signing divorce paperwork. A sheriff or certified process server needs to serve these papers, and plenty of people go to great lengths to avoid them. In rare cases, some have even fled to different countries in an attempt to evade divorce proceedings.

In an effort to serve an uncooperative spouse, a Petitioner could have the divorce paperwork mailed to the Respondent’s last known address.

If the Petitioner can’t locate the Respondent, they can use the newspaper in an attempt to give notice about the divorce. While the laws regarding it can vary, the Petitioner is usually required to print the divorce summons in the newspaper every week for a month.

Default Divorce

Once the Petitioner proves that they’ve done everything they can to contact the Respondent and serve the divorce papers, the court can proceed with granting a default divorce.

What is a default divorce? It’s a divorce granted to the Petitioner after the Respondent has failed to acknowledge the court. In this instance, the Respondent’s silence is considered agreeing to the terms laid out by the Petitioner.

In some cases, the Petitioner doesn’t even need to appear in court to receive a default divorce. Other times, the judge requests that the Petitioner appears at a hearing to answer questions about the divorce proceedings.

Once the judge grants a default divorce, the Petitioner must mail a Notice of Entry Order to the Respondent. This paper notifies the Respondent that a divorce has been issued against them. The Respondent has a limited window of time to fight the default judgment.

Pros and Cons of Default Divorce

A default divorce is one of the easiest methods of obtaining a divorce. It involves little time in the courtroom, allowing the Petitioner to save on court costs and divorce attorney fees.

A Petitioner also won’t need to disclose any financial information like pay stubs or tax returns. Items like these need to be brought to court in traditional divorce proceedings.

On the other hand, default divorces can be overturned if the Respondent puts up a fight.

Many states attempt to protect individuals from unfair default judgments. They allow the default to be set aside if the Respondent can prove that the Petitioner and their lawyer acted dishonestly.

If the judge agrees with the Respondent, the default is overturned and the divorce proceedings start over again.

Some Spouses Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

Divorce proceedings start when one party files a petition for divorce. After the petition is filed, the other party has a set amount of time to issue a response.

Do both parties have to sign divorce papers to finalize a divorce? No. After a set amount of time, the Petitioner can pursue a default divorce.

Default divorces grant the Petitioner a divorce from an uncooperative spouse, but the spouse has a limited amount of time to contest the judgment.

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