When your spouse won’t agree to divorce

What Happens When Your Spouse Won’t Agree to a Divorce?

Even when a marriage is dissolving quickly and a divorce seems inevitable, there are times when one spouse isn’t willing to take the final step in this process. In 2020, over 630,000 divorces were finalized, many of which were contested. While a spouse not agreeing to a divorce can complicate the situation, it usually isn’t enough to stop the divorce altogether.

Do Both Spouses Need to Agree to a Divorce?

When one spouse wants a divorce but the other spouse doesn’t, the divorce should still go through eventually. If you’re worried about the possibility that your spouse won’t sign the final divorce papers, you should first know more about the divorce process and what it entails for anyone who lives in New Jersey.

This process begins with filing a divorce petition, which doesn’t need to be signed by both parties. In fact, none of the divorce papers need to be signed by both parties unless you’re seeking an uncontested divorce. If both spouses agree on all of the particulars surrounding the divorce, a settlement agreement can be signed to expedite the divorce process.

Even though it’s possible for a divorce to occur without the cooperation of a spouse, this doesn’t mean that the process will be a simple one. Most states have procedures on how to manage situations where one spouse isn’t responding to the petition or can’t be found.

What Is a No-fault State?

New Jersey is considered to be a no-fault state, which means that the reason for the divorce will automatically be stated as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences.

When filling out a petition in a no-fault state, the court can be told that the divorce is based entirely on irreconcilable differences, which means that the courts won’t take misconduct from either spouse into account when choosing whether to issue the divorce.

Is It Possible to Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse Finding Out?

Most judges attempt to prevent divorce proceedings that only one spouse has access to, which is why it’s almost impossible to obtain a divorce without your spouse knowing about it. It’s also a legal requirement that the spouse who doesn’t file the petition is informed about it before proceedings can go forward.

Is Divorce Possible if You’re Unable to Locate Your Spouse?

When filing a petition, the petition and any additional paperwork need to be delivered to the other spouse via a “service of process.” When a couple is no longer living together, it might be challenging for the other spouse to be located during this stage of the process.

In turn, the spouse who filed the petition can request permission from the court to use a different method to provide their spouse with notice of the petition. The judge in charge of the divorce proceedings will determine if the request should be granted and which alternative method will be used. One option is to publish the notice in a large newspaper. Even if your spouse doesn’t respond, this method means that they should reasonably be aware of the divorce.

Can an Out-of-state Divorce Be Enforced?

All states come with residency requirements that a couple must meet before filing for a divorce. In New Jersey, either spouse must have lived in the state for at least 12 months before the petition is filed. Even if one spouse lives in a different state, the divorce will be valid and recognized by courts in all other states.

It’s possible, however, that the court’s final decision about alimony, custody, child support, and property division won’t be valid for the nonresident spouse unless the court has jurisdiction over them.

The court may have jurisdiction over the nonresident spouse when the filing spouse is able to serve the nonresident spouse with all divorce documents, the nonresident spouse adheres to the out-of-state court rulings, and the nonresident spouse consents to the jurisdiction.

If the other spouse is living in a foreign country, there could be questions about whether state courts or foreign courts are able to govern the issues. The various factors that determine the answer to this question extend to:

  • The exact country
  • Where both parties live
  • Length of residency
  • If children are involved

A New Jersey divorce lawyer can help you identify what your legal standing is in regard to an out-of-state divorce.

Steps You Could Take When Your Spouse Doesn’t Agree to a Divorce

There are many things you can do to effectively resolve the situation and make it more likely that your spouse will agree to a divorce. In the event that you’ve had an unhappy marriage for a long time, tell your spouse that you’re no longer happy and want to work on strengthening the relationship.

Your spouse may be willing to take steps to repair your relationship. A common mistake is for one spouse to wait until an actual crisis has happened to broach the subject of marital counseling. If, however, counseling is sought when problems are first starting to appear in the relationship, the sessions might be more productive.

You should also be clear about the decision you’ve made. Making a quick decision without giving it much thought can lead to regret later on. Try to avoid threatening a divorce during a heated argument with your spouse. The wounds that these words cause can linger and may eventually complicate the divorce proceedings.

Once your decision has been made to file for a divorce, you should let your spouse know immediately and be clear about why the divorce is being sought. If your spouse leaves the conversation with the hope that reconciliation is possible, you might have given them a mixed message.

If you find that your spouse is surprised by this decision, they’ll likely ask for an explanation, which should be given in a calm and respectful manner. Certain states offer education about the divorce process and the laws surrounding divorce. If you require assistance in learning about the different types of divorce and what the process entails, a New Jersey divorce lawyer can answer any questions that you have.

What Happens When Your Spouse Decides Not to Respond to the Divorce Petition?

Once a petition has been served to your spouse, he or she has 35 days to respond in accordance with New Jersey law. When the other spouse doesn’t file a response on time, it’s possible for a default divorce to be requested.

The initial step in a default divorce occurs once 35 days have passed after which it’s possible to submit a default alongside the divorce judgment. The court then sets a hearing date, which also comes with a notice that must be sent to the other spouse. If the other spouse’s address is unknown, the notice doesn’t need to be sent.

The third and final step in a default divorce involves the judge reviewing all paperwork, asking some questions, and issuing a ruling about the divorce in question. While there are some states that have more complex rules for how a default divorce is handled, New Jersey guidelines are straightforward.

There are, however, pros and cons to a default divorce. For instance, the defaulting spouse may be given some time to request that the judge put aside the default divorce judgments, which can lengthen proceedings even further.

If your spouse is unwilling to agree to a divorce and won’t come to an agreement about how your property and assets will be divided, having legal representation may be beneficial. Call our New Jersey divorce lawyers today at (201) 343-0078 to speak with us or schedule a consultation.

Like the article? Please share