If your spouse does not want a divorce, it can be next to impossible to get them to sign divorce papers. As divorce attorneys, we understand how challenging that is.
However, in most Arizona divorce cases, you can proceed without consent from your spouse.
So, we put together a guide to help you determine what to do if your spouse won’t sign divorce papers. We cover when a spouse’s consent might be needed and how the divorce can proceed without their cooperation.
We also provide some general information on how the court might handle a case if a spouse does not sign.
Does Your Spouse Need to Sign the Divorce Papers?
This really depends on what you mean by “divorce papers.”
Depending on what you are referring to, you may or may not need your spouse’s signature. Divorce settlements and other acknowledgements will likely need your spouse’s signature but, in most cases, you do not need a spouse’s signature to ultimately proceed with the divorce.
The law provides remedies for uncooperative spouses. Even if you have a covenant marriage and your spouse does not agree to the divorce, although there will be some other requirements to meet, ultimately the law provides ways to obtain a divorce.
What Are Divorce Papers?
First, we should define divorce papers as we have found people are often referring to different documents associated with a divorce.
Divorce papers may refer to the beginning paperwork that initiates the divorce. Other times, divorce papers are the documents that contain the final resolutions/agreements submitted to the judge. Both have instances that would require the spouse’s signature.
If your spouse refuses to sign, in either event, the law provides remedies.
Many people attempt to have their spouses accept service of the Petition for Dissolution and corresponding documents.
The main reason people go this route is that it saves money and is usually thought of as less confrontational than having the documents served by a process server.
But sometimes the spouse will not sign an acceptance of service. If this happens, the filing spouse must serve the documents in a way that does not require the receiving spouse’s cooperation, usually by way of a process server.
In Arizona, you do not have to have a specific reason to get divorced as long as you are in a non-covenant marriage, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.
As long as you can meet the jurisdictional requirements, properly file your divorce documents, and serve your spouse, you can move forward with your divorce even if your spouse won’t sign the divorce papers.
You will need to give them time to respond. Still, if your spouse fails to respond during the waiting period, you can move forward with a default divorce.
A default divorce may still include spousal support or alimony, marital property division, and a parenting plan.
Having an uncontested divorce makes the process simpler. Although this isn’t a specifically identified “type of divorce” in Arizona, in these situations, usually, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse sign all the appropriate paperwork, and a settlement agreement is determined.
If you properly served the divorce petition and your spouse filed an uncontested response but won’t sign the final settlement agreement the two of you reached, depending on the specific facts, you may have some remedies available to you to proceed without their signature.
But you should consult with an attorney because this will be a very fact specific analysis.
If you are unable to move forward with the agreement reached then you will likely have to seek assistance from the court. This usually means going to trial.
Different Laws for Covenant Marriage or An Annulment
If you are in a covenant marriage or seeking an annulment, different laws apply to your case.
In a covenant marriage, if your spouse does not want the divorce, you will need to meet one of the specific instances where a divorce can be granted.
If one of the unique circumstances applies to your covenant marriage, you can obtain a divorce, even if your spouse will not sign.
However, you will need to follow the Arizona laws that apply to your marriage. If you are in a covenant marriage or you are seeking an annulment, you should speak to an experienced Arizona family law attorney to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.
When speaking to your lawyer, be sure to disclose everything to them so they can help you best work through any legal issues. Due to your attorney-client relationship protection, you can speak with them candidly.
Ways to Handle Your Divorce When Your Spouse Won’t Sign
If your spouse refuses to sign, it can be frustrating. But you can’t lose your cool. Here are a few things you can do should you find yourself in this situation.
Try Not to Blame Your Spouse
Many people do not want to admit that the divorce is their fault and sometimes it takes time for a spouse to accept that the divorce is happening.
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you do not need a specific reason to seek a divorce.
So, not unnecessarily including fault grounds-as unrepresented parties sometimes do-in your divorce paperwork might help to diffuse the situation when spouses are fighting.
An experienced family law attorney can help you draft your initial paperwork to only include potentially upsetting allegations where appropriate/necessary.
Make Sure You File Correctly
Filing the correct documents with the Arizona superior court is essential in any Arizona divorce. If you do not file correctly, it will make the process take even longer, which is the last thing you want when your spouse is dragging out the divorce.
Properly Serve Your Divorce Papers
It is essential to serve the divorce papers properly. If your spouse indicates that they plan to refuse to sign the papers, you have to be even more diligent about the way you serve the divorce paperwork.
You may want to utilize a process server or sheriff because they are familiar with the service process. They can carry out service lawfully, so your soon-to-be ex-spouse cannot say they were not served.
The court provides many alternative dispute resolution options to assist you in resolution, such as mediation. Mediation is a great asset for people seeking a divorce.
Mediators have experience helping couples in tumultuous marriages work past their reasons for divorcing and come to mutually beneficial agreements in regards to child custody, child support, property division, spousal support payments, and more.
Mediators will usually have the parties sign the agreements they reached in mediation before leaving to memorialize the agreements and reduce potential future litigation.
Hire a Divorce Attorney
If you are having trouble with your divorce process or you have reason to believe your ex will refuse to cooperate, it is a good idea to have legal representation.
Family lawyers are knowledgeable about the processes you must follow, and they know how to work around issues with awkward parties.
Build a Support System
When an uncooperative spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, it can make the divorce process more lengthy.
And, it is a good indication that they will be challenging on other matters too, like the division of property, assets, and debts, support payments, and parenting time.
So, you may be waiting a while before your divorce is final.
During that time and after your divorce, it is vital to have a support system. You need a few impartial people to talk to about what is going on. If you do not have family or friends who can fill this role, you may want to look into a support group for divorcees.
Final Thoughts When Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers
All divorce cases are stressful, but when one spouse wants a divorce and the other doesn’t, it can put even more strain on everyone involved.
If your spouse is a narcissist, they may refuse to sign because they are still seeking to control you. So, it is essential to remain calm, listen to your attorney’s legal advice, and follow the judge’s orders.
While you do have to follow the legal process, you are not stuck in any marriage forever. As divorce lawyers, we know what you are going through.
Our law firm has worked with people in many unique situations, and we are here to help if you need to consult with an attorney about your legal options.