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  • Writer's pictureJames Chau

Getting Divorced Without Your Spouse’s Signature or Consent


When couples go through a divorce, it is common for there to be disagreements. There are several ways to work through these disagreements and eventually come to a consensus on the terms of the divorce agreement. Oftentimes a non-consenting spouse will tell the other spouse they will not sign any papers and not agree to the divorce. This puts the spouse who wants to divorce in a predicament because they know they will not have any cooperation from the other spouse.


When there are bound to be disagreements, a married spouse will often hire a family law attorney to represent them and negotiate terms with the attorney for their spouse. If the spouses cannot agree, the case can go to court, where a judge will dictate the divorce terms. As with any case that goes to court, you forfeit control over the outcome and become dependent on the judge’s decision.


If the couple does not want to proceed with litigation before a Judge, they can also attempt ADR or alternative dispute resolution. To maintain control of the terms of divorce, many couples will utilize alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation or a collaborative divorce. With mediation, the spouses meet with a 3rd party mediator without attorneys present to work through the terms of the divorce. The mediation is confidential, and the spouses can still consult with their attorneys outside of the mediation sessions. In another form of ADR, called collaborative divorce, the spouses meet with their attorneys and a mediator to have a 4-way negotiation with the goal being to collaboratively explore settlement options before proceeding with litigation. Oftentimes the attorneys can bring in other experts like accountants or parenting coordinators to try to reach agreements on some of the major divorce issues.


With the advent of no-fault divorce, people are no longer required to show proof of any reason why they are seeking a divorce. No fault has made obtaining a divorce much easier, and thus people are no longer required to remain in an unhappy divorce or a potentially dangerous situation. It also prevents the fault aspect of divorce from creeping into a divorce, so the blame is attributed to issues of property division or spousal support.

In all the cases mentioned, from mediation through full-scale litigation, the process involves both spouses. While they may not agree on the details, they both agree they want to be divorced.


In some cases, the spouses cannot even agree on whether they want to get divorced. After being served with papers, the respondent may even refuse to sign the papers. For no-fault states and divorces, especially, not obtaining a signature does not mean that the process stops. You are not required to obtain a signature to get a divorce in California. Not getting the signature may delay the process, but it won’t stop it.


When divorce papers are served, the respondent, or the spouse receiving the initial paperwork, has 30 days to respond. The petitioner can be granted a default divorce if the respondent does not respond within 30 days of receiving notification. With a default divorce, the respondent gives up the right to negotiate. Just because they did not acknowledge or respond to the divorce papers, it does not mean they will not be legally responsible for spousal and child support. In fact, since they have given up their right to negotiate or contest the petitioner’s requests, if the court agrees to the petitioner’s terms, things can end up so much worse for the respondent than if they were an active participant in the divorce.


While the laws regarding divorce have made it easier for people to obtain a divorce even if the petitioner’s spouse does not agree, a strict process still needs to be followed for the courts to agree to a default divorce. When you work with a certified family law specialist, you will know you are in good hands, and the process will be followed to the letter so you may obtain your default divorce on your terms.

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