What Happens if My Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?
September 9th, 2022
It takes two people to be married, but only one person to be divorced. The breakdown of the marriage relationship doesn’t always feel the same to both parties. Often one spouse is ready for a divorce before the other. When that happens, your spouse may refuse to sign divorce papers or refuse to finalize a separation agreement. Maryland law provides options for spouses who want to get a divorce over their husband or wife’s objection.
Does My Spouse Have to Agree to Get Divorced?
Divorce is a difficult and emotional process. Having a spouse refuse to sign divorce papers can make it that much harder to move on from a relationship that has broken down. In Maryland, your spouse does not have to agree for you to get a divorce. Either spouse can file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The fact that your spouse believes the marriage can be saved through counseling or still wants to be married will not prevent the court from entering a judgment after the process is complete.
That said, if your spouse does agree that your marriage is over, it can significantly reduce the time, expense, and frustration involved in the divorce process. You and your spouse may be able to negotiate divorce terms you can agree on, either through mediation or on your own. If you and your spouse have a written separation and property settlement agreement, you can use the Maryland Mutual Consent Divorce process to shortcut the normal divorce timetable and get your case resolved more quickly.
What to Do if Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers
If you and your spouse can’t agree on a divorce settlement before filing, that’s okay. Your attorney can help you prepare and file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce without any cooperation from your spouse. Once the Complaint for Absolute Divorce is filed, it must be served on your spouse. This is another time when a spouse may interfere with the process moving forward. However, even if your spouse refuses to accept the documents from the process server, the case can still go forward. Your attorney can pursue service a different way and file proof with the court so the case can continue.
Default Divorce Options
If your spouse refuses to acknowledge the divorce paperwork they receive, it can actually work in your favor. Under Maryland law, your spouse has 30 days to file a response to your Complaint, or 60 days if they live out of state. If your spouse misses that deadline, your attorney may file a request for Order of Default and send them a notice with the hearing date.
If a default is entered, your spouse will then have a short window of 30 days to file a motion to vacate the default. A motion to vacate the default, once entered, must state the reasons that your spouse failed to respond on time and that it is equitable (fair) for the Court to excuse that failure. If your spouse doesn’t file the motion to vacate default within those 30 days, the court will schedule a default hearing and take testimony and evidence without your spouse’s participation.
Once the Court finds your spouse in default, if he or she still refuses to participate by attending the hearing the Court will enter a default judgment. The default judgment of divorce will likely include the relief you request, including child custody and visitation, support, and property divisions, provided you have sufficient evidence on your own to meet the requisite legal standards.
Refusal to Sign or File Court Papers For Divorce After Settlement
In other cases, your spouse might participate or even initiate the divorce process, but then when it comes time for settlement, refuse to sign an agreement that he or she proposed. Once a Separation Agreement that addresses custody, support and property division is put together as a formal contract and signed, it cannot be easily set aside. If your spouse signed a Separation Agreement but now won’t agree to a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, your attorney can file a motion to enforce the agreement and have it incorporated into a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, even if your spouse doesn’t agree or fails to participate. It will then be up to him or her to convince the judge to set aside the agreement rather than holding your spouse to his or her word.
Get Help Streamlining Your Divorce Process
If you are ready to get divorced, the divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram are here to help. We can help negotiate with your spouse to reach a Separation Agreement or even agree on a Mutual Consent Divorce. But if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, we can also take the matter to court, freeing you from a marriage you no longer want. We will help you through the process. Contact us today or call (301) 658-7354 to schedule a consultation with an attorney.