Many people think they are at the mercy of their spouse when it comes to getting a divorce. They believe that if their spouse will not sign divorce papers, they are stuck in their marriage. Texas law does not allow one person to have that type of control over another. While a signature on divorce papers helps resolve things more smoothly, it is not an absolute requirement. Rest assured; you can always get divorced if you want to after a certain period of time.
Reasons Why Spouses May Not Agree to a Divorce
Some people try to do what they can to either drag out the divorce process or make it more complicated. In some cases, spouses cannot agree on the terms of the divorce. In other cases, the spouse who is served with the papers may choose to ignore them because they think that it will keep the divorce process from moving forward. Regardless of the reason, one party does not gain control over the other by simply refusing to sign divorce papers.
Importantly, the phrase “signing the divorce papers” does not always mean what you think. You do not draft up papers on your own and give them to your spouse to sign. The process works in one of two ways:
- You and your spouse agree to the terms of the divorce, and you both sign an agreement thereto, or
- A judge decides the terms of the divorce after a court hearing
Filing for a Default Court Order
If you cannot get a signed divorce agreement there are a number of things you can do in this situation. First, if the party who was served ignores the papers completely, you can petition the court for a default ruling. This is what happens when one person entirely refuses to participate in the legal process. If you have not received any response from your spouse within 60 days, you can seek a default divorce.
These are rare circumstances because failing to participate in the divorce process deprives a party of the right to have any say. They have every incentive to at least respond and participate, and they cost themselves dearly by not doing so. If they fail to participate, they will be bound by whatever terms the judge issues in the default ruling. It is always better to have a say in the divorce process, and silence is not a say.
Reaching an Agreement Through Mediation or Negotiation
When your spouse will not sign because they do not agree with the divorce terms, you are always better off trying to negotiate a solution. Divorce trials are expensive and acrimonious, and they should be avoided at all costs. If you have children together, you will need to maintain some semblance of a relationship in order to co-parent. Litigation can get extremely contentious and will leave lasting bitterness.
One way to help break impasses is to try mediation if you otherwise cannot agree on an aspect of the divorce. A mediator can help bridge the gap by making negotiations easier as a neutral third party. They can try to find common ground between you and your spouse and help you move towards an agreement. They are trained at resolving impasses, and spouses who are at least committed to talking can often work out differences. You can also try to speak with your spouse through your lawyers, either through letters or a negotiation session. It may be a more effective way to communicate with your spouse than speaking with them directly.
You Can Go to Court and Have a Judge Decide
However, one spouse cannot completely sidestep the divorce process if they do not agree with the terms or do not want a divorce. You always have the right to take your case to trial. You have a legal right to a day in court, even if your other spouse does not want to go there. They will be served papers, and failing to show up is risky and can lead to bigger problems for them.
Going to trial is not as easy as it sounds. It is not something that should be taken lightly. There is an entire process you must go through before you would be able to get in front of a judge. You and your spouse would need to exchange financial information, and they would have the right to look inside all of your accounts. If custody is at issue, they could get private and intrusive information about your life, and it may be an issue in court.
A trial should be your last resort, but it may be necessary if your spouse resists every attempt to go through with the divorce. You can rest a little easier in knowing that very few divorce cases will go to trial. Most of them are resolved through mutual agreements. Even if your spouse will not sign divorce papers and agree at first, the odds are that they will eventually agree to a settlement. However, you should always keep the option of a trial open in case it is necessary.
Work with a Family Law Attorney to Resolve Contested Issues
It is always better to not try handling a contested divorce process on your own. If your spouse is either ignoring the process or making things as difficult as they can, there may be little you can do on your own to resolve matters. A Texas family law attorney can help you either come to an understanding with your spouse or take your case to court. Trying to deal with an uncooperative spouse on your own may make the situation worse, especially when your spouse is committed to making your life as difficult as possible for whatever reason.
To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Our Brazoria County, Texas family law attorneys are ready to help.