What Happens if a Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?
Some states require a spouse to prove fault to obtain a divorce. California is a no-fault state for divorce cases. You do not need to prove your spouse committed any wrongdoing, such as adultery or domestic violence, to obtain a divorce.
One spouse can file for divorce with the court seeking a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Certifying that the irreconcilable differences caused the marriage’s permanent breakdown is sufficient to receive a divorce. Therefore, if a spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, the petitioning spouse can still receive a divorce.
What Are the Requirements for a Divorce in California?
You must be a California resident for a minimum of six months before you petition the court for a divorce. Also, you must have resided in the county where you file the divorce action for a minimum of three months before filing the divorce petition.
What Happens if My Spouse Does Not Respond to the Divorce Petition?
The divorce action begins when you file your petition requesting a dissolution of marriage. You must serve a copy of the divorce petition on your spouse. If your spouse tries to evade service, your attorney may hire a process server to hand-deliver the divorce papers to your spouse.
Your spouse has 30 days to file a response to your divorce petition. If your spouse is refusing to sign divorce papers, it does not stop the divorce process. You can proceed with the divorce action, regardless of whether your spouse signs the divorce papers or not.
When the time to respond expires, your spouse is in default. The judge will enter a default order granting the divorce. The default judgment dissolves the marriage and settles other matters before the court.
If you requested child support, child custody, spousal support, and property division, the judge considers the evidence and testimony you present. The judge decides on these issues based on what is presented to the court. Your spouse lost the opportunity to argue their case because they failed to respond to the petition for dissolution of marriage.
What Happens if My Spouse Responds to the Divorce Petition?
Your spouse can respond to the divorce petition and join with your request for a divorce. When you and your spouse agree to the divorce terms, the action is called an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces generally do not take as long to resolve and cost less than a contested divorce.
A contested divorce occurs when your spouse objects to any issue related to the dissolution of marriage. Because California is a no-fault divorce state, your spouse cannot prevent you from obtaining a divorce if you want to end the marriage.
However, your spouse can object to one or more terms of the divorce including:
- Spousal support
- Property division
- Child support
- Division of marital debt
- Identification of community property
- Child custody and visitation
Even though your spouse challenges one or more of the above issues, it does not mean your case has to go to trial. Instead, you and your spouse can settle these matters through negotiation with your lawyers. In some cases, spouses agree to use a neutral mediator to help them reach a settlement.
If you and your spouse reach a settlement, the settlement terms can be incorporated into the court’s final divorce decree. However, the judge reviews the agreement regarding child support, custody, and visitation. The judge may modify the agreement if he finds that the terms are not in the child’s best interest.
When spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms, the case is scheduled for a hearing. At the hearing, each party presents evidence to support their position. Before making a final ruling, the judge considers all evidence presented in court and applicable laws.
Either spouse may appeal the judge’s decision. However, they must have legal grounds for the appeal for the judge’s order to be overturned or modified.
Why Should Spouses Sign Divorce Papers and Work Out Any Differences Between Themselves?
Even though you might not want to cooperate with your spouse, it is generally in your best interest to try to negotiate a settlement in a divorce action. Litigating a divorce can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful.
An uncontested divorce can be completed in just a few months. However, a contested divorce could take more than a year to complete. Some divorce cases take years to resolve, especially when the case involves high-net-worth individuals.
If a judge decides on custody issues, the outcome might not be the best arrangement for the parents and the children. California custody laws require judges to decide custody cases based on the best interest of the child.
The court considers various factors when determining the child’s best interest. However, parents know their children and situation better than a judge. The judge can only decide the case based on the information presented in court.
Working together to develop a parenting plan is better for the entire family. The parents agree to terms that allow them to continue a close relationship with their children and participate in their children’s lives. The parents have the flexibility to choose a custody and visitation plan that meets their needs when they work together to settle child custody matters.
Negotiating a divorce settlement also avoids the negative and sometimes destructive behavior that can result from a contested divorce. A contested divorce can cause bitter feelings between spouses, which can adversely affect them and their children.
Do You Qualify for a Summary Dissolution of Marriage?
California divorce laws provide for a quick, easy end to some marriages. A summary dissolution can end a marriage just six months after filing the petition for summary dissolution. However, you must meet the criteria for a summary dissolution:
- The marriage lasted less than five years
- At least one spouse meets the residency requirements for a California divorce action
- Both spouses agree to end the marriage
- The spouses do not have any children together and are not currently expecting a child
- The parties do not own any real property
- The spouses agree to waive spousal support and their right to appeal
- The spouses owe less than $6,000 in marital debt, excluding car loans
- Have less than $47,000 in assets together and separately, excluding the value of vehicles
Even though you are not required to hire a lawyer to petition for summary dissolution, it is wise to seek legal counsel before filing a divorce petition. The forms for a summary dissolution or divorce petition must be completed fully and accurately. Mistakes could be costly.
Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Los Angeles Divorce Lawyers
The divorce process can be confusing and frustrating. Depending on your situation, your divorce could be complicated. Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Los Angeles divorce attorneys to discuss your case at (310) 271-6290.