What If My Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?

signing divorce papers

Refusing to sign divorce papers will not stop the legal dissolution of your marriage under Florida’s no-fault divorce laws.

When you file for divorce, you must arrange to serve your spouse with papers explaining the legal action against them. This allows your spouse to respond, but your suit will move forward regardless.

Some spouses refuse to acknowledge the need for a divorce in even the worst marriages. But you should not be swayed by false claims that they’ll stop you from getting a divorce. In fact, if your spouse ignores divorce papers in Florida, you can be granted a divorce by default.

An experienced divorce attorney at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. in Tampa can help you file a divorce petition and serve notice on your spouse. Florida Law Advisers, P.A. can ensure your filing documents meet all of the Family Law Court’s requirements and help you move forward strategically if your spouse refuses to cooperate or sign divorce papers.

If your spouse has indicated that he or she will object to a divorce, contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. today for a free and confidential consultation. A spouse who initially resists divorce can make a contested divorce difficult. Let’s talk about how we can protect you and achieve your objectives for ending your marriage.

Why a Spouse May Refuse to Sign Divorce Papers

A spouse who refuses to sign divorce papers when served cannot stop their marriage from ending. But some angry spouses refuse to cooperate. It happens for two general reasons:

  • Spite. An angry spouse may think they are making things more difficult for you by refusing to acknowledge divorce papers. It may be their way of saying you can’t tell them what to do.
  • Your spouse may think you cannot divorce them without their say-so and that not signing divorce papers stops the divorce. They may think they can withhold their signature as a bargaining chip and get concessions from you. They are mistaken on both counts.

There are also cases in which an absent spouse cannot be found to receive and sign divorce papers. Again, this does not stop a legally filed divorce claim from moving forward.

Can You Still Get a Divorce if Both Parties Don’t Sign the Divorce Papers?

A spouse who receives a divorce petition has 20 calendar days to file a response. This is their opportunity to respond to allegations the other party has made to justify requests for alimony, child custody, and child support. If the divorce involves a member of the military who has been deployed, there may be special considerations for a service member’s inability to respond in a timely manner.

After 20 days, if there is no response, the Clerk of Court may enter a default divorce ruling.

Once a default is entered, the party who has defaulted is deemed to have waived their right to contest assertions in the divorce petition. The defaulted party is treated as having admitted all the allegations.

A default divorce ends your marriage quickly, but it is not necessarily the best way to settle issues that must be resolved in many divorces.

What Kinds of Problems Can You Face if Your Spouse Doesn’t Sign the Divorce Papers?

If you have had a divorce by default declared because your spouse failed to sign divorce papers, a judge will consider your divorce petition without your spouse’s input.

In a typical divorce, the filing spouse will state the terms they seek in the divorce and the allegations that show why they deserve the requested relief. The other spouse then has an opportunity to respond, which may include denials of the spouse’s allegations and potentially a counter-petition with allegations and demands of their own.

In a hearing, the Family Law Court judge can then weigh the evidence and grant a divorce with terms that are fair and appropriate for all concerned, especially if underage children are involved.

In a default divorce, a judge will grant an end to the marriage but may need additional information to decide requests for child support or alimony. For example, a judge without further information might base child support on the supposition that the absent parent makes minimum wage, which could result in much less assistance than what is appropriate. Florida’s appeals court has said that when children are involved, defaults must be set aside because the Family Law Court is required to base decisions on the best interests of the children, not a parent’s default.

How Your Spouse May Overturn a Default Divorce in Florida

Once the Clerk of Court has declared your spouse to be in default, your spouse must have the judgment set aside if they are to be heard in court. There are three standards that must be met for the terms of a default divorce to be set aside and the responding spouse to be heard:

  • Excusable neglect. This requires a legitimate reason for the failure to answer the petition within 20 days, such as a major life emergency, hospital stay, being incarcerated, or other circumstances beyond the individual’s control. Not knowing that a response is required within 20 days is not excusable neglect.
  • Meritorious defense. This requires presenting an affidavit stating that they would likely prevail in any of the arguments that are a part of the filing spouse’s divorce petition. This is a low bar to cross.
  • Due diligence. This requires the responding spouse to show that once they realized they were in default, they acted promptly to resolve their delinquency. There is no rule for determining what act of due diligence is necessary for default to be set aside. Hiring a divorce attorney in a timely manner may be enough.

Having a default divorce set aside allows your spouse to have a say in a hearing about the terms of the divorce. It does not restore the marriage.

Contact Our Tampa Divorce Lawyers About an Unresponsive Spouse

An experienced divorce lawyer at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., in Tampa, can help you file for divorce and guide you through the process if your spouse won’t sign the divorce papers. Call us today at (844) 771-4322 or fill out the Get a free consultation form on our website for more information.

At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we are committed to solving your divorce, bankruptcy, and immigration matters. We are a full-service law firm serving clients in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Orlando, and throughout Central Florida.