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What Do I Do When My Spouse Won’t Sign The Divorce Papers?

Divorce is never easy, but the process can be even more challenging if your spouse refuses to sign the paperwork or participate in the proceedings in a meaningful way. When you are trying to be reasonable in addressing child custody, visitation, asset division, and spousal support, it can be frustrating when he or she will not communicate. Fortunately, Texas is a no-fault divorce state, which means you do not need cooperation or permission to complete the process. A court cannot force you to stay married, so you can dissolve your marriage by stating that it is unsalvageable. In many ways, your spouse’s failure to be involved is evidence that your relationship has irretrievably broken down.

However, the fact that your spouse is not participating does not dispense with the need to work with an experienced Texas divorce lawyer throughout the process. There are certain steps to take and legal requirements to meet, and you want to feel confident that your rights are being protected. Your attorney can assist with such tasks as:

1. Review the paperwork you filed to initiate the divorce process. Presumably, you have already filed your divorce petition, since you are stuck at the stage where your spouse will not move forward with the process. Still, it is important to double-check your documentation because the court will proceed in your case on the basis of your paperwork alone. In other words, because your spouse will not respond, the judge will make decisions according to your allegations. There are a few areas to review with your lawyer:

  • The specifics on your community property, i.e., what assets you acquired together during your marriage – as separate from what you owned before the wedding;
  • How you propose your community property be divided, according to the interests of equity;
  • Details regarding appropriateness and payment of post-divorce spousal support; and,
  • Custody, visitation, and support for minor children.

2. Keep in mind the court’s deadlines. The first date that is important in a Texas divorce case is the date you filed your petition since it imposes certain time restrictions on both parties. Your spouse must file a response according to a statutory formula: 20 days PLUS a few more to count until the next Monday. Another important date is 60 days after you filed your petition since there is a mandatory waiting period before you can finalize the case. A divorce case cannot sit on a court’s docket indefinitely, without further action from the parties a divorce may be set for trial or dismissed.

3. Check for your spouse’s response to the divorce petition. Based on the dates listed above, you should check with the court to determine whether your spouse filed any paperwork. Look for such documents as:

  • An answer to your petition;
  • An appearance for himself or herself; or,
  • An appearance from an attorney.

4. Move for default if your spouse failed to respond. If your spouse did not file any document after being served with the divorce petition, you can request that the court enter default after the mandatory 60-day waiting period has ended. From there, the court will set a hearing date on your motion for default judgment. Your attorney will handle the proceeding, in which you show the judge that you properly served your spouse and there was no response.

5. Continue through the divorce process. You may be able to conclude your divorce case and have the judge enter a default final decree at the same hearing as your motion for default judgment. However, it is possible that the court will set another date to issue a ruling on the allegations and matters stated in your petition for divorce. As long as you have requested fair, equitable relief regarding asset division, minor child issues, and other provisions relating to the dissolution of your marriage, the judge is likely to enter an order reflecting your legal desires that were presented to the court.

Note that any issues related to minor children must undergo review based upon the child’s best interests. The court applies the factors to your circumstances and will enter an order on child custody and visitation if it meets the standard. Also, keep in mind that child support works according to a statutory formula, so your request must comply with the relevant laws.

Assuming you have all your procedural ducks in a row, the court will grant you a divorce even without your spouse’s signature or involvement.

Reasons Your Spouse May Be Unresponsive

Every relationship is unique, implying that there are countless possible explanations for your partner’s lack of responsiveness. However, here are examples that are more common:

  • The other spouse simply does not want the marriage to end
  • The other spouse aims to “punish” you by making the process more difficult than it should be
  • The other spouse is out of the country or on deployment
  • An accident or event has led them to be mentally incompetent or unconscious
  • They are now considered to be a missing person

Reasons Your Spouse May Drag Out the Divorce Process Further

Aside from not signing the divorce papers in a reasonable amount of time, your spouse may find other ways to prolong the divorce process. If you find yourself in the midst of one of these issues, don’t hesitate to contact our office right away. We can advise you on the best steps to take moving forward.

  • Your spouse abuses the discovery process. Typically, both parties request evidence as part of the legal proceedings. However, certain spouses may intentionally prolong the divorce proceedings by submitting an overwhelming number of requests and motions. Consequently, you may find yourself burdened with the task of providing an extensive volume of information, significantly slowing down the entire process.
  • Your spouse asks for a continuance. In some instances, your spouse might approach the judge and claim insufficient time to adequately prepare for a hearing, thereby requesting a rescheduled date. While a valid reason is typically required to request a continuance, your spouse may simply state that they have yet to seek legal advice.
  • You find yourself forced to file motions. Your spouse has the ability to prolong the proceedings by engaging in tactics such as concealing assets or employing deceitful strategies. As a result, you may be compelled to file motions in order to obtain precise information regarding their financial status. If your spouse fails to cooperate, this process can consume a substantial amount of time.
  • Your spouse accuses you of false accusations. In a particularly contentious divorce, one spouse may make allegations of abuse or child neglect against you, leading them to file a protection order. This situation can significantly complicate matters concerning both the divorce process and child custody arrangements.

Retain A Texas Divorce Attorney For Assistance

This overview should be helpful in explaining how to handle divorce when your spouse will not sign, but it is still wise to work with a skilled lawyer to ensure a smooth process. You do not want errors or omissions to affect your rights regarding asset division, alimony, or issues related to minor children. For more information on how our team can assist, please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and determine the next steps.

Last Updated on June 9, 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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