The decision to end a marriage can be a mutual decision or a decision made by just one spouse. When both spouses agree, however, it typically makes the subsequent legal process of divorce easier. Conversely, if your spouse does not want the marriage to end, or refuses to reach an amicable divorce settlement, it can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting. Dallas divorce attorney Rita M. Boyd discusses what you should do if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers.
Understanding the Divorce Process
Just like every marriage is unique, so is every divorce. Nevertheless, the divorce process follows the same basic path for everyone. One party (the “Petitioner”) must initiate the divorce and notify the other party (the “Respondent”) that they filed for divorce. The Respondent has a fixed period of time within which to file a response with the court. If the Respondent fails to file an Answer, the Petitioner may ask for a default judgment. If the Respondent does file an Answer, the divorce process proceeds with parties involved.
Your Spouse Does Not Need to Agree to a Divorce
A common misconception about divorce is that both parties must agree to the divorcee. Put another way, people often believe that a spouse can prevent a divorce. While that was true (to an extent) in the past, it is no longer the case. Historically, the party seeking a divorce had to prove fault on the part of his/her spouse before a court would grant a divorce. In legal terms, these were known as “fault grounds.” Although many states have completely done away with fault grounds, Texas does still allow a petitioner to allege adultery, cruelty, felony conviction, and/or abandonment as fault grounds in a divorce. Fortunately, Texas also recognizes three non-fault grounds, including insupportability, living apart, and confinement in a mental hospital. “Insupportability” is the catch-all, no-fault divorce option in Texas, simply requiring the Petitioner to show that the marriage has become so insupportable due to conflict that the conflict destroys the marriage and that there is no reasonable expectation that the parties are getting back together. If you choose insupportability as your grounds for a divorce, you are not required to prove fault on the part of your spouse and your spouse is not required to be in agreement with the divorce.
Your Spouse Does Not Have to Agree to Sign “The Papers”
Another common misconception about divorce is that both parties are required to sign “the papers.” Again, simply not true. There are documents that your spouse can elect to sign that will make the divorce process less costly and less time-consuming; however, refusal to sign will not prevent the divorce from moving forward.
For example, your spouse can sign an acknowledgment of service which simply means that he/she officially admits to receiving a copy of the divorce paperwork filed with the court. You and your spouse may also negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement that outlines how the debts and assets of the marriage will be divided in the divorce. In that case, you will both need to sign the agreement and submit it to the court. If you are unable to reach an out of court settlement, however, the court may order the parties to attend mediation and/or a trial may become necessary. Finally, if you have minor children, you and your spouse can agree to the terms of a Parenting Plan that covers issues related to the continued co-parenting of the children post-divorce. If you cannot agree to the terms the court will be forced to set the terms.
What to Do When a Spouse Won’t Sign
When a spouse refuses to cooperate by signing any of the documents required to facilitate a divorce, your divorce becomes a contested divorce. At that point, you need to consult with an experienced divorce attorney if you do not already have one onboard. While your spouse cannot prevent the divorce from happening, he/she can make it considerably more painful and expensive by refusing to cooperate, making the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney even more important.
Contact a Dallas Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce in Texas, contact an experienced Dallas divorce attorney at Rita M. Boyd, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 972-380-8000 to schedule your appointment today.