What Happens when a Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

Celebrity divorce news seems to be its own self-perpetuating reality these days. Athletes, as we all know, are no exception. Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada’s marriage debacle, and more recently Lozada serving Chad with divorce papers with, Chad formerly “Ochocinco” Johnson refusing to sign the papers, brings up an interesting situation when it comes to filing for divorce that not everyone may be aware of. What happens in the divorce process when a spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers? What are the options afterwards?

Filing a “Contested Divorce”

If a spouse refuses to sign divorce papers served to them, the spouse filing for divorce has the option to file a “contested” divorce. In order to file a contested divorce the spouse filing for divorce must file a petition in their jurisdiction’s family court. This is basically suing the other spouse; in this case the spouse refusing will be served the petition and a notice to appear in court with the chance to respond.

Once the divorce is considered contested and the petition for contested divorce has been served a hearing will take place with both sides to present in order to hear the legal terms of the divorce through testimony from both sides and any evidence presented. If issues cannot be resolved the court could also have the final say on the all relevant settlements and the division of property. The “Contested Divorce” is the of course the polar opposite of the “Uncontested Divorce.”

Divorce by default

If the spouse refusing to sign the divorce papers does not show up at the court hearing the courts will have the option of granting a divorce by default. A default divorce determines that the spouses absence from the proceedings as an agreement to the original terms of divorce. In this instance all the original custodial arrangements, division of property and assets as requested in the original divorce filing will be awarded by the court.

Mediation

However this to possibly avoid this situation the court could suggest a meeting of the two spouses with a mediator. Mediation could possibly force the issues on the table in order to try and settle the situation without it dragging out in court or possible going into a divorce by default. It is common to bring a mediator to these types of situations and many times couples will settle the situation and come away from the proceedings with the divorce papers signed. In the long term this is often in the best interest of all the parties involved.

Abandonment

Sometimes divorce forms may not be signed because the spouse has left the state of missing. In these cases the court will a filing for divorce for reasons of abandonment. Usually there is a mandatory waiting period of 6 months before the divorce is finalized when filing under “abandonment”. In this period there are required attempts to contact the spouse. If these are unsuccessful the courts will grant the divorce without a hearing.

Although there are several options in different situations when divorce papers are not signed for various reasons, the courts will always try to take the necessary steps to get the couple together in a natural manner to determine the situation in a fair way for both sides. It is always important to know your options when filing for divorce as many different situations can arise.

2 comments on “What Happens when a Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

  1. steven messer on said:

    Thanks for the info.

  2. Evelyn Daniel on said:

    My husband was found guilty of battery & false imprisonment against me & is now serving time in prison as of this moment, 10/5yrs. the least time is 2-3yrs, he is dangerous. Can I get a divorce without his signature? Do I get a restraing order now or when he gets out of prison?

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