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What You Should Do If Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

If you have never been through a divorce, and are now facing one, you may fall victim to any of the numerous myths surrounding the divorce process.  One of those is the belief that your spouse must sign the divorce papers for you to get divorced. Ideally, both parties sign an agreement during the divorce process; however, a Murfreesboro contested divorce lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you should do if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers.

What Do We Mean by “Divorce Papers?”

First, it is important to explain some of the basic steps in a typical divorce proceeding as well as define what it meant by the term “divorce papers.”  Either spouse may initiate a divorcedivorce attorney by filing a Complaint for Divorce with the appropriate court. The Complaint provides some basic information about the parties, the marriage, and the request to end the marriage. A copy of the Complaint, along with a Summons, must be officially served on the responding party (your spouse in a divorce). The Summons explains that a divorce action has been started and tells the responding party how long he/she has to file a written Answer with the court. This is the first opportunity for your spouse to voluntarily “sign” divorce papers by accepting service of process. If your spouse refuses to accept the documents, you may serve them another way – usually through the civil sheriff’s office. If you cannot find your spouse, you may be entitled to serve him/her by publication after making a diligent search. Although the acceptance of service is the first chance for your spouse to sign divorce related documents, it is not what most people mean when they refer to “signing divorce papers.”

Other Divorce Papers

What most people are referring to when they discuss concerns that a spouse will not “sign divorce papers” are divorce documents such as a Parenting Plan or Marital Settlement Agreement. If there are minor children of the marriage, a Parenting Plan must be accepted by the court before the divorce can be finalized. The Parenting Plan includes things such as the designation of primary residential parent, a parenting time schedule, and child support amount. A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is not something that is required to be filed in a divorce; however, if you and your spouse can reach an amicable agreement it makes the divorce process less stressful – and less expensive. A MSA typically covers things such as the division or marital assets and debts, spousal support (alimony), and other details necessary to legally end the marriage.

What If Your Spouse Will Not Sign?

Contrary to what you may have heard (or seen on television), it is not necessary for both spouses to sign any divorce documents for a divorce to be finalized. If your spouse tries to avoid being served with the initial Complaint and Summons there are several ways to effectuate service. Once served, your spouse only has a short window of time within which to file a written Answer with the court. If no Answer is filed, you may ask for a default judgment of divorce. In essence, this means your spouse loses his/her right to participate in the divorce process and you will get your divorce anyway. If your spouse refuses to negotiate the terms of a Parenting Plan or MSA, the matter can be set for trial and a judge will decide the terms of either or both. 

In short, your spouse can save you both time, stress, and money by signing a variety of documents during the divorce process or your spouse can make things more difficult and expensive by refusing to sign documents. What your spouse cannot do, however, is preventing you from getting a divorce by refusing to sign documents. The court can grant your request for a divorce with, or without, your spouse’s agreement.

Contact a Murfreesboro Contested Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about divorce, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro contested divorce lawyer to discuss your options. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Dinah Michael