Do I have to sign the divorce papers if I don't agree?
A legal separation is a trying and difficult process any couple can go through. This process becomes more challenging when you realize that your spouse doesn’t want to fix the marriage. So, do you have options if your partner is planning a divorce, but you are not ready to give up on the marriage? Should you sign the divorce if you don’t want to?
Regardless of how difficult it is to face divorce, you need to be involved in court proceedings to ensure you don’t lose what you are entitled to. It’s essential to note that your spouse does not necessarily require your participation to get divorced from you. Provided he or she notifies you after the petition is filed and follows the rules of the court, he or she can acquire a final divorce decree in court.
Common reasons for not signing divorce papers
• Denial. Everybody experiences feelings of rejection or disbelieve particularly when it comes to divorce. Are you getting it difficult to believe that your marriage is really over? This is a stage of grief that you will learn to accept if you get professional help.
• You believe you won’t get divorced if you don’t sign the papers. Do you think that both of you have to agree to get divorced? The fact is that, although it takes two willing people to get married, it only takes one to dissolve the marriage. Even if you refuse to sign the divorce papers, you will just prolong the process, but you won’t stop your spouse from leaving you.
• You think your spouse will change their mind when you hold out. Are you taking your time before signing your divorce papers because you believe your spouse will change their mind? If you are thinking of trying marriage counseling or a couple’s retreat to repair your marriage even though your spouse wants to get divorced, you are on the wrong path. The chances are that they are not interested in coming back to the marriage.
• You are afraid of change. Divorce will change every part of your life. Many things will change, and perhaps you are not ready to get divorced like your partner. If you are terrified of losing control, or you don’t do well with change, this will make you decline to sign the papers.
• You get financial support from your spouse. If your partner has always been the breadwinner, it will be difficult for you to sign divorce papers. You may be asking yourself how you will survive without their support especially if you have children.
Petition and notice
Even if you refuse to sign the divorce papers, your spouse may file a divorce petition including other forms needed by your state in a divorce court where anyone of you lives. This petition will have information about you, your spouse, and your children, including the marriage itself. The reason for divorce will also be included as well as the marital assets and debts. Once the petition is filed, you will be notified via the method the court requires. This notice form will inform you of how long you have to sign the divorce papers.
Service by publication
If you are avoiding these papers, your spouse may not need to find you. If they can’t locate you or send the notice to you, the judge can allow them to publish the notice in a local newspaper for a certain number of days. This notice will indicate when it was filed, the day of the hearing, the amount of time you have to respond, including the court the divorce case was filed in. Such notice is sufficient in case your spouse can’t find you. Sometimes the court can send someone to try to locate you before your spouse is allowed to serve the notice by publication. Once the notice is published for the required amount of days, your spouse will proceed with divorce even without your participation.
In case the publication is done, and you fail to respond to the notice, your spouse can ask the court to give them a final divorce hearing. Here, the judge may award him or her judgment by default. This judgment is usually offered when the court summons a spouse, but they don’t respond. In such a situation, the judge will make a ruling based on facts your spouse has provided. This means he or she will get the divorce by their terms even if you do not agree with some of the things that were stated in the petition.
Since response forms are included in the divorce papers, consider using them to state the reasons why you don’t agree with the petition. Make sure you file this answer before the deadline the court has provided so that you can contest the divorce. However, your contest needs to be in good faith –you should dispute legitimate issues like child custody instead of delaying the proceedings when you don’t have a valid reason. You may also file a counterclaim and include your answer. Counterclaims are designed to propose your new terms for the divorce, including the division of marital debts and assets.
To succeed in this process, consider hiring a professional divorce lawyer to handle your case. Other than offering expert advice, they will help you get a favorable judgment.