What Happens If Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

Can a person divorce if their partner doesn’t want to? What happens if someone refuses to sign divorce papers? Read on to find out here.

According to the CDC, an average of 6.5 people out of 1,000 are getting married each year. Meanwhile, an estimated 2.9 people out of 1,000 are getting divorced. 

Some couples mutually reach the decision to end their marriage. Both recognize that the relationship has run its course. Some, however, struggle to agree upon whether or not the divorce is necessary. 

If you are in this situation, you’re probably asking, “What happens if someone refuses to sign divorce papers?”

Read on to find out how to get a divorce if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers.

Common Reasons One Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

You may be feeling alone in this process. Is it common for the two parties to struggle to reach an agreement? It’s more common than you may think, especially under three specific circumstances that we’ll discuss below.

They Don’t Want One

The simplest reason that one party won’t sign divorce papers is that they don’t want one. They may not think that it’s necessary or find that they are dependent on their spouse and don’t want to adjust to a life without them. 

They Don’t Like the Wording of the Petition

Perhaps the most common reason that one party won’t sign divorce papers is that they don’t agree with the petition. This tends to come up when one party is blaming the other for the divorce. It also comes up when one party is fighting for primary custody or control over the majority of the couple’s assets.

Their Whereabouts are Unknown

In some cases, divorce papers can’t be served, much less signed, because the spouse has disappeared. This is considered abandonment and the court will allow the remaining party to proceed with the divorce, albeit with certain time restrictions. 

What Happens If Someone Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

To answer what is likely your most pressing question, it doesn’t matter what your spouse’s reasoning is. You will still be able to file for a divorce with or without their signature. The first step is to hire a divorce lawyer to assess the situation. 

Let’s look at some of the options you have in the event that your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers.

Attempt Mediation

If you are in contact with your spouse and aware of their grievances, consider mediation. Mediation is the process of both spouses (and their attorneys) speaking with each other in the presence of a neutral third party. This third party, or mediator, helps the couple to reach an agreement.

Couples who seek mediation may reach a settlement outside of the courtroom. Of course, if one party refuses to sign the divorce papers, you have a long road ahead of you. Still, meditation can help you to uncover why your spouse won’t sign the papers and allow you both to come to a consensus. 

Serve the Divorce Papers

If mediation is out of the question, you need to ensure that your spouse received the divorce papers. That way, you can prove in court that they’ve seen the papers but are refusing to cooperate. This will allow you to continue moving forward.

How you serve divorce papers varies from state to state. Talk to your attorney about how to proceed. In most cases, a sheriff or private process server will handle the situation for you.

Consider a No-Fault Divorce

In the past, most states required that one spouse proved in court their reasoning for seeking a divorce. In all 50 states, this is no longer the case. No-fault divorces provide couples with the option of ending their marriage without pointing fingers or contesting certain aspects of the petition.

A no-fault divorce may solve two different issues. The first is that your spouse does not wish to take the blame for your lapsed marriage. The second is that your spouse does not agree to the conditions you’ve included in the petition.

Many couples find that filing a no-fault divorce eliminates pre-signing tension. However, you should note that you may be unhappy with the results of your case if you were fighting for anything specific. It is possible to refile 

Divorce by Default 

What happens if you serve the divorce papers but your spouse is still uncooperative? Divorce by default tends to come into play when your spouse does not show up to scheduled hearings or court meetings. In this case, the court operates under the assumption that this absence functions as an agreement to the terms of the petition.


If your spouse is nowhere to be found, the court will grant you a divorce for reasons of abandonment. However, this doesn’t happen right away.

Most states will require a six-month grace period during which you are expected to look for your spouse. If in this time, you fail to locate your spouse, your divorce may proceed without a hearing. If you do track down your spouse, all of the above options come back into play.

There Is No Refusing a Divorce

What happens if someone refuses to sign divorce papers? The proceedings may change or take a little bit longer. 

However, the results will remain the same. No state in America will force a couple to remain together, even if one party doesn’t want a divorce. 

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