What Happens If I Don’t Sign My Divorce Papers?

Hossein Berenji, Jul 09, 2020

California is a no-fault state for divorce actions. A spouse does not need to prove that the other spouse was “at fault” for the breakup of the marriage to get a divorce. Fault in other states may include adultery, abandonment, or abuse.

In California, the only reason a person needs to get a divorce is that the person wants out of the marriage. You do not need your spouse to agree to end the marriage or sign the divorce documents. As long as you meet the legal requirements for a divorce, you can get divorced without your spouse signing any documents.

What are the Requirements for a Divorce in California?

To get divorced in California, you must meet the residency requirements. You must have lived in the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months before filing the divorce petition. You must be a resident of the State of California for at least six months before filing your divorce petition.

The divorce papers must be served on your spouse. A spouse may be uncooperative and refuse to sign the proof of service. The proof of service simply states that the person received the divorce papers, not that he or she agrees with the terms of the divorce.

Even if your spouse refuses to sign the acceptance of service, you can still get divorced. A process server can deliver the papers to your spouse and sign a proof of service form for the court. The court may approve other forms of service if your spouse is evading service.

Proceeding Without A Response from Your Spouse

Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the divorce petition once he or she is served. If your spouse fails to file a response with the court, he or she is considered in default. The court may proceed with the divorce proceeding without your spouse’s participation.

Even though your spouse is not involved in the divorce, all laws related to property division, custody, and support still apply. If you propose a settlement that deviates from the state’s community property laws, time-sharing guidelines, or child support guidelines, you must explain the deviation.

The court may hold a hearing to determine if your proposed divorce judgment is in the best interest of the child and complies with the state’s property settlement laws.

Contested Divorce Actions

The only time that your spouse’s signature is required for a divorce is if your spouse responds to the divorce complaint. If your spouse responds to the divorce petition within the 30 days allowed by law, your spouse can contest the terms of your divorce. Your spouse may not stop you from ending the marriage, but he or she can object to the terms of the divorce such as:

  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Visitation and Custody
  • Division of Marital Debt
  • Property Division

In a contested divorce, spouses may negotiate a settlement to resolve disputes. If the spouses can resolve their disputes through a settlement, the court incorporates the settlement into the final divorce decree if the settlement does not violate any laws or equitable requirements.

When spouses cannot agree to a settlement, the matter goes before the judge. Each party submits evidence supporting the party’s allegations. The judge considers all evidence and relevant family laws to make a final ruling.

If your spouse disagrees with the ruling, he or she can file an appeal of the judge’s decision.

Why Should Spouses Cooperate and Sign Divorce Papers?

Even if a spouse does not want a divorce, it is usually best to cooperate. Because of the state’s no-fault divorce laws, the court can end the marriage upon request of just one spouse. The other spouse cannot stop the divorce from taking place.

However, spouses can have a say in the outcome of the divorce. When a spouse refuses to accept service or respond to the divorce petition, the spouse loses the right to contest any of the terms of the divorce. In other words, the spouse filing the divorce petition has more control over the outcome of the divorce.

While a spouse may propose fair terms when he or she files the divorce petition, that may not always be the case. A spouse may try to obtain more favorable terms if the spouse believes that the other spouse will not sign the divorce papers.

For example, a spouse may request sole custody of the children, alimony, and a larger portion of the marital property. If the other spouse refuses to participate in the divorce proceeding, the court may grant the petition based on the testimony and evidence presented by the petitioning spouse.

The only want to fight for fair and just divorce terms is to participate in the divorce. If you have questions about a divorce, a divorce lawyer can explain your rights and options under California divorce laws.