When you finally resolve to get a divorce, it is very often after long, difficult conversations with yourself as much as with your spouse. These are not decisions people make lightly, and only you know how much you’ve struggled with your ultimate conclusion by the time you start the process for a divorce. Imagine if, after all of that, your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers. This is just the situation many people face, and it may even be your situation. Read on to learn about what options you have, and for personalized advice on your divorce, reach out to a Suffolk County divorce attorney today.
What if My Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?
When only one spouse wants a divorce, that spouse may seek a default divorce. A default divorce does not require the other spouse’s signature, which is why it is also called a “no signature required” divorce.
To some degree, you will still need your spouse to act in a way that is beneficial to you. You may get a default divorce after you file your divorce petition and serve divorce notice, but your spouse doesn’t reply by the deadline. Given your now-to-be-former spouse’s silence, the judge may process your case as an uncontested divorce.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is unlikely in cases where one spouse refuses to divorce, but it may happen when, as stated, that same spouse is unable or willing to reply to the divorce notice. The reason an uncontested divorce would be unlikely lies in the difference between contested and uncontested divorces.
A contested divorce occurs when the spouses disagree on topics that need to be settled before finalizing the separation, while an uncontested divorce happens when spouses agree on every major topic. Such topics would include child support, child custody, property division, and spousal support.
To file for an uncontested divorce, you’ll have to meet two additional requirements as well. You need to meet the residency requirement that you or your spouse has lived in New York for two continuous years before you start the divorce case. An uncontested divorce is also possible if either you or your spouse have lived one continuous year in New York, as long as you were married in New York, you lived in New York as a married couple, or the grounds for your divorce arose from an event in New York. The residency requirement is also met if both spouses are New York residents when the divorce starts and the grounds for the divorce arose from an event in New York.
New York State recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces. No-fault divorces are for marriages which ended in an irremediable breakdown lasting 6 or more months. Fault divorces are for marriages where one spouse committed a harm against the other. Examples of qualifying harms are cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, imprisonment, and adultery.
It follows that if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, they may not be willing to cooperate with you on every other part of the divorce, as an uncontested divorce would require. However, if your spouse seems to ignore the divorce and does not answer the notice, then you may have a freer hand in choosing how to proceed.