What Happens if My Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

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Deciding to end your marriage is never easy, and to make matters all the more complicated, your spouse may disagree with the decision. They may refuse to sign the final divorce papers when this happens. In such situations, you may feel lost on how to proceed as you’re eager to transition to the next chapter of your life. Fortunately, you may be able to enter a “default divorce.” Please continue reading to learn what steps to take if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers and how a talented Suffolk County Divorce Attorney can help you today.  

Can a spouse refuse to sign divorce papers?

To obtain a divorce, the individual seeking the dissolution of marriage must file a petition with the court. Once the petition is filed, the petitioner is responsible for serving the divorce papers, also known as the Summons and Complaint, to their spouse to notify them of their intentions to terminate the marriage. Their spouse, the respondent, has 20 days to respond. This document confirms that your spouse understands and accepts the divorce. Failure to respond within this allotted time will result in the petitioner moving forward by seeking a default judgment of divorce.

When one party wants to get divorced, and the other does not, there are still ways for the divorce to proceed. The court will not keep you in a marriage when you do not want to stay, regardless of what your spouse wants. In New York, when a divorce petition is filed and served, and the respondent fails to respond by the deadline, the judge can grant a default or “no signature required” divorce. When this is the case, the court will treat the case as an uncontested divorce and continue processing the divorce. When the respondent doesn’t reply to the divorce petition, the court takes this as the respondent agrees with the divorce terms as they have not contested any of the issues set forth by the petitioner. Therefore, even if you don’t want to end your marriage, responding to the divorce petition is in your best interest.

How do I obtain a default divorce?

Before you can undergo the divorce process in the absence of your spouse, the court will require you to prove that you did your best to formally notify them that you have taken the necessary steps to initiate the divorce process and give them sufficient time to provide the court with a response. Even if you believe that your spouse will not respond, you must serve them with divorce papers. After the requisite period has been satisfied, you can proceed with the divorce process without their input. While it’s frustrating to undergo this complex legal process without your spouse’s cooperation, you can obtain a final divorce decree alone.

If your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, please don’t hesitate to contact a qualified attorney from The Law Offices of Susan A. Kassel, P.C., who can help you through each phase of this process. Allow our firm to represent your interests today to ensure you can successfully move on to the next chapter of your life.

Why choose our firm?

We have an excellent AVVO rating from our many happy clients

We will tirelessly pursue a favorable resolution to your case

We offer aggressive and effective representation

We treat our clients with the compassion, patience, and respect that they deserve

We have more than 20 years of dedicated legal experience

We have the legal knowledge necessary to help you obtain the outcome you desire

We tailor our practice to the representation of your divorce case

What Our Clients Are Saying

I hired Susan to represent me in a divorce matter where I was fighting for custody and to limit my wife's equitable share of our assets. I won custody of our son, kept the marital residence, kept my professional practice, kept my building and paid less than half to my wife. This was after a long-term marriage. She could persuade the court that equitable is not equal and sometimes the man does deserve to win!

‐ Dave

I first must say that I had been represented by two prior attorneys both of whom had simply taken my money and left me nothing to show for it in my custody case. They kept telling me what they were doing for me but I found out they were lying. Susan on the other hand had gotten me temporary custody and support for my children and myself within two months of hiring her. I cannot say enough about her.

‐ Craig

After talking to a few other attorneys, I hired Susan to represent me in my divorce and custody dispute. I was reluctant to go with her because she was the cheapest out of all the other attorneys I met with, but I'm so glad I did. I am 100% positive no one else would have done such a great job with my case as Susan and her staff. Her work is quality, her staff is reliable and her character is honorable. There...

‐ Linda

I had a very difficult case where I had already burned through two attorneys who were unable to get me custody of my children and complete my divorce. Susan was able to rapidly work out an agreement and not let it just malinger on like my previous experiences. She was also considerate of my financial situation unlike all of the other lawyers I had spoken to. I highly recommend her if you want complete and caring service with an in-depth knowledge of...

‐ Joanne


The Law Offices of Susan A. Kassel, P.C. proudly serves clients throughout Suffolk County, New York in their divorce, family law, and estate planning matters. If you require the services of an experienced Suffolk County attorney, schedule a consultation with The Law Offices of Susan A. Kassel, P.C. today.

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