When filing for divorce, it is common for you and your ex-spouse to disagree. However, an outright refusal to sign divorce paperwork or participate in proceedings can make the process even more stressful. Whether your spouse refuses to sign because he or she holds out hope that the relationship can be repaired or is trying to make the process more difficult for you, here is how to proceed with the divorce even if one spouse is not cooperating.
Yes. In a “no-fault” divorce state like Florida, you do not need to prove wrongdoing or provide evidence to file for divorce. Only one spouse needs to file the official Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage and state that the marriage was irretrievably broken. Once the paperwork is filed in court, your spouse will be served and have 20 days to respond.
After the Petition of Dissolution is filed, your spouse has 20 days to respond by signing the petition or entering a counter-petition. In a counter-petition, the spouse can explain why they do not want the marriage to end and suggest alternative methods like therapy to repair the relationship. However, these claims do not need to be followed. A divorce proceeding can still progress forward even if only one spouse wants the divorce.
After the petition is filed and your spouse is served, he or she has 20 days to respond to the petition with an acknowledgment or counter-petition. Some people believe avoiding a response will prevent the divorce from continuing. However, this is not true. If your spouse does not respond, you may wish to file a petition for a default divorce proceeding with the court.
A default has the legal effect of the defaulting spouse admitting all facts alleged in the petition. The only issues that must be resolved after additional notice and a hearing are financial matters such as the amount (if any) of alimony to be paid, the amount (if any) of child support to be paid.
Otherwise, the defaulting spouse forfeits any rights regarding how the divorce judgment is made, that may include how assets are divided and custody is arranged. Default divorces are often filed when one spouse fails to respond to the petition within 20 days. This is why it is in both parties’ best interest to respond to divorce petitions promptly.
Overturning a Default Divorce
There are three circumstances where a judge may overturn a request for a default divorce:
- Excusable neglect—Issued when a spouse has a valid reason for not responding to the petition in a timely matter, such as a medical or family emergency. Not knowing the laws surrounding the petition is not a valid excuse
- Due diligence—Assures you attempted to respond to the petition, but elements out of your control caused you to miss the deadline.
Thomas R. Peppler is an experienced family law attorney serving residents in Oviedo, Winter Springs, and Seminole County, Florida. Peppler Law P.A. assists with all matters regarding divorce and family law, from filing for default divorce motions to drafting parenting plans. Contact us at 407-316-2045 for a case evaluation.