Divorce is messy, even in the most amicable circumstances. So what happens when one partner is strongly opposed to the idea of divorce? While it may be tempting just to refuse to sign the divorce papers, this decision can come at a high cost. 

Can I Stop a Divorce by Refusing to Sign?

To file for divorce, the requesting spouse fills out paperwork, submits it to the court, and serves it to the other party. From here, the second spouse can sign the paperwork, indicating that they are aware of and agree to the divorce. 

Refusing to sign divorce papers will not stop divorce proceedings. However, refusal to sign can delay the process. 

Sometimes, one spouse believes that by refusing to sign, they will gain the time that they need to save the marriage. Others may believe that without their consent, the divorce cannot be finalized. 

While refusal to sign is a move that may delay proceedings and keep the legal marriage in place slightly longer, a judge will give a default judgment if a spouse refuses to sign for the divorce.

What is a Default Judgement?

Even if both parties have not signed, divorce papers still make their way through the court system. 

While 30 days is a standard wait time for divorce papers, it can take much longer depending on how many cases are waiting to go before a judge. Eventually, the judge will enter a ruling on the divorce. If only one party has signed the papers, the judge will often enter a default judgment.

Default judgment means that a ruling is automatically given in favor of the party that has participated in the legal process. If you have refused to sign or otherwise participate, you essentially waive your legal rights. 

Why Should I Avoid Default Judgment?

When your spouse files for divorce, the required paperwork addresses the allocation of assets, custody arrangements, and other family law issues. 

Matters determined by divorce agreements include:

The filing spouse can request to be awarded full custody of children and full ownership of property and assets. They can also request ownership of pets and high payments for child support and alimony. 

Regardless of how much the filing spouse is asking for, a default judgment could grant all of the requests if the divorce papers have not been contested. This can result in loss of parenting rights and property, as well as steep, long-term financial obligations.  

Participation Is Preferable

The best option is to cooperate with the divorce proceedings. Since a divorce will occur regardless of whether you sign or not, it’s preferable to be involved in the settlement that is ultimately reached. 

There are two categories of divorce that may apply:

Uncontested Divorce

If you refuse to sign the papers, the divorce will be deemed to be “uncontested” before a default judgment is rendered. 

If you sign the divorce papers and you agree with the division of custody, resources, and payments proposed by your spouse, the divorce will also be categorized as uncontested. 

Contested Divorce

If you disagree with the proposed terms, you can contest them by filing an answer to the divorce papers. If you want to contest the terms of the divorce, it’s best to hire an experienced divorce attorney to help you through the process of filing paperwork and advocating for your rights. 

Filing a response will notify both your spouse and the court that you do not accept the terms initially proposed. That way, you have a voice in the proceedings and are able to advocate a resolution that considers the best interests of both spouses. 

Protect Your Future

While it may be tempting to ignore divorce papers, a refusal to sign papers cannot keep someone in a marriage they are attempting to leave. However, failing to be involved in the divorce process can have a high cost and long-lasting consequences.   

To learn more, call our law firm at (201) 487-1199 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.