Ending Your Marriage When Your Spouse Does Not Want a Divorce
Deciding to file for divorce is never easy, and most spouses agonize over what the right choice is for themselves and their families. Ideally, when couples mutually agree that ending their marriage is appropriate, they can execute an uncontested divorce that takes much of the time, cost and uncertainty out of the legal process.
However, this best-case scenario does not always happen, and in fact, some spouses actively fight against the possibility of divorce. This stance can manifest as an unwillingness to participate in the case or a refusal to sign necessary documents. One example of the lengths some reluctant spouses will go to in hopes of stopping an impending divorce is found in the case of former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor, who fled the country to avoid paying a $18.3 million divorce settlement and said he was invested in finding another solution that did not involve ending the marriage.
While an unresponsive spouse is frustrating, this does not have to serve as a complete barrier to divorce.
When a Spouse Refuses to Participate in the Proceedings
The cornerstone of a functioning legal system, regardless of the matter under dispute, is that all parties actively participate and have a meaningful influence on the outcome. This concept is supported by rules that require a person who initiates a legal action to notify the other side of the petition and any other documents filed with the court. This model is intended to keep outcomes fair and balanced.
However, parties named in court cases do not always make an effort to respond to a petition or acknowledge that a legal case is ongoing. In these circumstances, a time limit is imposed on all parties receiving notice of litigation to respond. As long as the spouse filing for divorce can prove the other party received notice and a copy of the petition, he/she can ask for a default divorce if the other spouse fails to respond to the petition or file any other motions with the court within 30 days. A default divorce means the court will issue a final judgment, and a judge will typically grant the demands of the petitioning spouse, though reopening the case is possible in some instances.
Relatedly, if a spouse cannot be located, participation in divorce proceedings is practically impossible. However, service by publication (such as a published notice of divorce in newspapers) is an option the filing spouse can use to satisfy the notice requirement, once evidence is produced showing a diligent search turned up no useful information. If no response is received within 30 days, a judge will normally issue a default judgment.
When a Spouse Will Not Sign Documents
Despite depictions in movies, a spouse that refuses to sign the final divorce papers will not prevent the dissolution from becoming effective. In some cases, the court may issue a final and enforceable divorce judgment, with or without the signature of both parties. If a spouse initially participates in divorce proceedings, but then withdraws and ceases communications, a hearing will be required to conclude the case, and if a spouse fails to file an appearance, the judge can issue the divorce and adopt the terms made in the petition to govern the final settlement.
Speak With a Mt. Prospect Divorce Attorney
Having an uncooperative spouse can feel isolating, but unresponsiveness does not take away a person’s right to divorce. Dedicated Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson has years of experience working with divorcing clients in Illinois, and he has a thorough understanding of how the law would impact your individual case. If you have questions or concerns about a potential or pending divorce, contact our office at 847.873.6741 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help.