My Spouse Won’t Sign The Divorce Papers. What Should I Do?
Around half of marriages in the United States will ultimately end in divorce. Moreover, around 2.7 out of 1,000 people will find themselves getting divorced each year. While that may not help you feel better about the end of your marriage, it can serve to offer some vital information about what you may have ahead of you.
The road to divorce is rarely as smooth as you might like. Sometimes, you and your spouse may find yourselves arguing over the distribution of your assets or how you intend to manage child custody agreements. Other times, your spouse may simply refuse to sign those vital papers, leaving you with few options. You may feel stuck. Your spouse may simply refuse to move forward with the divorce, leaving you in the position of pushing things through on your own.
What should you do when your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers?
1. Get in contact with a lawyer to provide the legal support and advice to guide you through the process.
Sometimes, you and your spouse may be in agreement about the terms of your divorce, making it easy to move forward without significant legal intervention. However, if your spouse is refusing to sign the divorce papers, you may find that the process of securing your divorce is more complicated than you initially anticipated. Worse, even the most “uncontested divorce” can turn into a contested divorce as you start actually managing the divorce process.
A lawyer can help ensure that you handle the process legally and that it goes as smoothly as possible. A lawyer can also offer vital insights into the steps you should take next, including what steps you need to take to secure a divorce without your former spouse’s cooperation.
2. Review your paperwork with your attorney.
Even if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce paperwork, you may still be able to move forward with your divorce. However, in those cases, the courts may rule on your divorce on the basis of the paperwork you have presented alone. Review your initial divorce paperwork with your lawyer so that it represents your rights and your desires as clearly as possible. Make sure:
You have clearly identified all of your community assets and created a fair division of property.
Louisiana’s community property laws state that any assets (or debts) that you acquired in your marriage are community property, and that your assets must be divided equally in a divorce. While there are some exceptions, if you want your divorce to go through smoothly, it’s important that your divorce paperwork includes a fair division of assets. Talk to your lawyer if you have any questions about how to ensure that those assets are divided fairly and that you haven’t missed anything.
You have clearly laid out your preferred custody arrangement.
Make sure that the custody arrangement, including any child support arrangements, clearly lays out the time your children will spend with their other parent—and that it incorporates your current arrangement. If you think that your spouse is unlikely to adhere to the agreement, you may want to consider working out other arrangements or changing the way you approach those agreements so that you have a reliable, routine custody arrangement.
You include clear information about any spousal support arrangements.
Will you be paying support to your spouse after your divorce? Will your spouse be expected to pay support to you? You need a divorce agreement that clearly lays out those terms and establishes what you expect following the divorce.
3. Clarify your timeline with your lawyer.
In Louisiana, you may be subject to a waiting period of either 180 or a full 365 days before your divorce is final, depending on the conditions of the divorce and whether you have minor children. If you do not have children, 180 days apart is sufficient to secure a divorce; if you have children, you may need to wait a full year, living separately during that time, before the divorce is final. Furthermore, you have to leave your spouse adequate time to respond to your petition.
Your spouse has a set amount of time from the time you file a Summons and Petition of Divorce to respond. During that time, your spouse has the option to file their own response: alleging that you have not been separated for the required time, or responding to the petition with their own terms.
4. Look for a way to contact your spouse, if needed.
You do not have to have direct contact with your spouse, but you will need to notify your spouse of your intent to file for divorce. Your lawyer can guide you to appropriate ways to file that petition, whether you have an address for your spouse or need to look them up in some other way. While you can file a no-contest divorce without your spouse’s signature, notifying your spouse of your intent is a critical part of the legal process–and getting that signature can streamline the divorce process.
5. Move for a default judgment.
If your spouse does not respond to your decree within the timeline laid out by the court, you can request that the court enter a default judgment. In some cases, the courts will issue a final divorce decree in the same hearing where they issue a default judgment. In other cases, that default judgment might give you permission to move forward with a no-contest divorce, but you may have to have your case heard at a separate hearing. If you have handled your request fairly and equitably, including a reasonable division of assets and reasonable custody arrangements for any minor children, the judge will likely sign an order that takes your desires and the way you have laid them out into consideration.
Sometimes, however, the court may need to review your custody arrangement to ensure that it is in the best interests of your children, or the court may issue a different judgement on the distribution of your assets or any spousal support requests. Talk to your lawyer about how to best review your divorce petition to ensure that it includes a fair and equitable distribution and to increase the odds that it will go through the first time.
Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC Today
If you’re struggling to file for divorce because your spouse refuses to sign, you need a lawyer on your side to help guide you through the process of a no-contest divorce and reduce the time you have to spend waiting for a resolution. Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC today at 504-780-8232 to learn more.