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My Spouse Refuses to Get a Divorce: What Do I Do?

Not every couple agrees that a marriage is over. Sometimes, one spouse holds out hope of reconciliation, or he or she tries to make divorce as difficult as possible by refusing to participate in the legal process.

However, Texas law is clear that a person cannot stay married against their will. Our state changed its laws decades ago to allow one spouse to seek a no-fault divorce alleging that conflict and discord make the marriage insupportable. When a person seeks a no-fault divorce, there is no way a spouse can try to disprove the allegation.

Below, our Houston divorce lawyer highlights the steps our clients can take when their spouse refuses to sign divorce papers.

File for Divorce Anyway

You don’t need your spouse’s permission to seek divorce. Instead, you can unilaterally file an Original Petition for Divorce, alleging that the marriage has broken down. This is the tool that opens a divorce matter in a family law court and begins the process, the Petition does not need to be consented to by a spouse.

Of course, divorce is easier, faster, and less expensive if your spouse agrees to it. Sometimes a spouse who is initially resistant will eventually see the wisdom of an uncontested divorce. There are many tools at your disposal to help you convince your spouse to see things your way, such as mediation. But the fact remains: you do not need your spouse’s permission or agreement to file for divorce.

Serve Papers on Your Spouse

You must provide a copy of your divorce petition along with a citation to your husband or wife. This notice is legally required, and you can’t skip this step. Texas lays out acceptable methods of service, such as using a process server or the sheriff to personally deliver papers to your spouse. 

Of course, your husband or wife could try to make things difficult by evading service. But this only gets them so far. Texas law allows the sheriff or process server to make service by registered or certified mail when personal service fails. Other methods are available to effect service on a resistant spouse.  

Seek a Default Divorce if Your Spouse Ignores the Petition

Your spouse is entitled to a copy of your petition so he or she can respond to your allegations. Texas gives the responding party a limited amount of time to file a response.

Some spouses, out of spite, will refuse to file anything. Does this stop the divorce process? No! Instead, you can ask the judge for a default divorce. The judge will set orders for a division of the community estate, child custody provisions, and child support, among other issues. So long as your spouse was properly served, the court has jurisdiction over the divorce and can proceed.

Present Evidence at a Hearing

If your spouse does not agree with the proposed terms of the divorce, your proceeding becomes contested. This will require that you present evidence to the judge regarding child custody, the division of property, child support, and spousal support.

Your spouse might choose to participate in this hearing or not. If he doesn’t mount a case, then the judge should decide in your favor and issue the divorce decree. Your spouse is bound by the decree whether he signs off on it or not.

Enforce the Divorce Decree

We have heard of some spouses fleeing the state of Texas to try and halt a divorce. This is fruitless, though it can create problems for our clients. For example, your ex might have fled with substantial community property. Getting this property back can take additional legwork but is achievable. Courts in other states will recognize valid Texas divorce decrees.

Contact Us Today

A contested divorce can be a real headache, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Ramos Law Group, PLLC, is proud to represent men and women in their divorce proceedings. Call us today.

Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by Mary E. Ramos

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Mary E. Ramos

Mary E. Ramos is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She is recognized and respected throughout the Houston legal community for dedication in effectively representing clients’ rights and interests. Mary understands the emotional side of divorce and brings a special compassion to each and every case.

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