Home Divorce What If My Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?

What If My Spouse Refuses to Sign the Divorce Papers?

muccilegal February 21, 2024

Divorces are easier and cheaper if both spouses cooperate and work out a sensible and workable settlement agreement together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Every marriage is unique and the break-up of a marriage is unique, too. If one spouse wants a divorce and the other doesn’t, or one spouse doesn’t agree with the other over any aspect of a settlement, you will be relieved to know that it’s still possible to get a divorce. You can’t be made to stay married just because your spouse refuses to cooperate or sign the divorce papers. Read on to find out how to proceed with a divorce if you cannot get your spouse to agree to anything.

The first step – file a petition for divorce with the court

If every attempt to convince your spouse to cooperate fails, then you should file a petition for divorce with the court. In Massachusetts, there are different types of divorce. In the case of an uncooperative spouse, the divorce petition would be either for a fault divorce or a no-fault contested divorce (also called a 1B divorce).

A fault divorce is the least common type of divorce petition. It is when one spouse’s behavior is alleged to be responsible for the desire for a divorce. Acceptable reasons include:

  • consistent cruelty or domestic violence;
  • habitual drunkenness or intoxication through use of drugs;
  • adultery;
  • prison sentence of more than 5 years;
  • desertion;
  • impotency;
  • non-support.

A contested no-fault divorce is when neither spouse is considered to be the fault of the request of the divorce, but at least in one spouse’s opinion there has been an irreconcilable break down in the marriage. It is contested because one spouse does not want to cooperate with the divorce for one reason or another.

Whatever divorce type is appropriate, you must be able to show that you have resided in Massachusetts for at least 12 months or were in the state with your spouse when the reason for the marriage break-up developed or occurred.

You should file your petition for divorce (also called a complaint) with the county court in the county where you live.

Step 2: Serve your spouse with the divorce papers

Once the court has given you the divorce papers (called the summons) you need to send these to your spouse for signing. This is where it gets tricky as you will need proof that your spouse has actually received them, even if he/she doesn’t want to sign them. It is best to have them couriered to where you think your spouse lives and make sure the service can get proof of delivery or non-delivery. Delivery in person by someone who provides this type of service is the best option as there will be feedback about what happens when the delivery agent tries to deliver the summons.

Step 3: Apply to the court for a default judgment

The judge can make a default judgment

If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers or the papers cannot be delivered because the spouse’s whereabouts are not known, you can apply to the court for a default judgment. The court will want proof that you have made a sincere effort to deliver the summons. In lieu of non-delivery, you may be asked to show proof that you have advertised the divorce in a local paper or other means of notification. There is a waiting period of 20 days from the date the spouse is known to have been served for a response. If there is no response, then the judge may set a date for a hearing with only one party to be present.

Normally, in a contested divorce, there is a period of 6 months before a hearing is set. This is designed to give both spouses time to reconcile their differences, or in this particular case where one spouse has refused to sign the papers (or hasn’t been contacted) to change his or her mind. The uncooperative spouse will be sent notification of the date of the hearing in the same way your summons was sent.

In a contested divorce of this type, when the court makes a decision about the divorce at the hearing, it will still take into account information provided to help them make an equitable distribution of assets (if it is a no-fault divorce) and make provisions for child custody and spousal and child support.

In a default judgment based on the spouse’s refusal to cooperate, the petitioner’s request for a divorce will normally be granted and once the divorce nisi has been given, there will be the statutory 90 days waiting time or cooling off period before the divorce is final.

It may be advisable to get legal advice if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers

Getting a divorce when your spouse refuses to cooperate or sign the divorce papers is still quite possible, but it is more difficult. You do need to know what to do and one of the best ways of making sure you are following the right procedure is to get legal advice from a divorce attorney.


For more information, visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free initial legal consultation today.

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