Making the decision to divorce is already difficult for many couples. Even in the best-case scenarios, the divorce process can hurt. After all, you probably thought this was it, right? You’d found each other in this wild, wacky world, and you’d be okay for the rest of your lives.
But it didn’t work out, and now someone is madder than a boiled owl, and things are really getting ugly. He’s looking for ways to make you pay, or she’s out screaming her head off about what a jerk you are. It’s all turned bitter and spiteful, and it’s affecting every part of your life. And then, just when you think it can’t get worse, your soon-to-be-ex decides they’re not going to any more mediation, and they’re refusing to sign the divorce papers.
Why won’t my spouse sign the divorce papers?
Well, it’s tricky, isn’t it?
One of the more common reasons is that one of the spouses hopes to revive the marriage. Relying on the hope of reconciliation, your spouse may decide to refuse to sign the divorce papers and drag the process out.
Another common reason for refusing to finalize the divorce is to gain some type of leverage over the other spouse. The spouse who threatens to refuse to sign may try to exert power over the other spouse by refusing to sign until the other spouse gives up certain benefits. For example, a spouse may refuse to sign the divorce papers until the other spouse agrees to give up custody of their children. (This happens a lot more than you think, and it’s ugly every time.)
Another reason for spouses to refuse to finalize their divorces is because they’re out for vengeance. Again, divorce is a difficult process. Some people may decide to act petty and delay signing the paperwork for a while to cause more trouble. In addition to refusing to sign the paperwork, some may prolong the process by hiding or trying to avoid being served with the divorce papers.
So, what can you do?
Well, the first thing you should know is that even if your spouse is acting like a fool, you can still get divorced. The process works like this:
- You file your divorce papers with the court claiming irreconcilable differences.
- Your spouse gets served the papers.
- He or she gets 30 days to respond.
- You get a court date, and you show up to it.
- If nothing changes by your court date and your spouse doesn’t respond, the judge likely grants you a divorce by default judgment.
Here’s some fancy language from the statute, in case you want to see it:
In lieu of service of process, the defendant may enter into a written notarized marital dissolution agreement with plaintiff that makes specific reference to a pending divorce by a court and docket number, or states that the defendant is aware that one will be filed in this state and that the defendant waives further service and waives filing an answer to the complaint. Such waiver of service shall be valid for a period of one hundred eighty (180) days from the date the last party signs the agreement. The agreement may include the obligation and payment of alimony, in solido or in futuro, to either of the parties, any other law notwithstanding. The signing of such an agreement shall be in lieu of service of process for the period such waiver is valid and shall constitute a general appearance before the court and answer that shall give the court personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and constitute a default judgment for the purpose of granting a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
What if I can’t find my spouse to serve the papers?
No worries; there’s a process for that, too. If you can’t find your spouse to serve the papers, the first thing you do is file an “Affidavit of Diligent Search,” to prove that you tried. Then, you file a Motion for Service of Process by Publication, which is a bit like a classified ad for your hidden spouse. You can learn more about it here.
Do I need a lawyer if my spouse won’t sign the divorce papers?
Legally, you never “need” a lawyer. Realistically? You’ll never need a Knoxville divorce lawyer more than if your spouse is playing games.
First of all, if your ex is railing about how he won’t pay unless he gets full custody, or she won’t give up the family car even though she doesn’t have a driver’s license, you are officially in high-conflict divorce territory, and this is where we really shine. See, these types of divorces can get real nasty real fast, and sometimes, it’s better to just let the attorneys hash it out for you. You don’t have to worry about your spouse poppin’ off and derailing the process and trying to handle that burden alone. We can help with conflict resolution even when things get tough.
Second of all, if your spouse just stops… everything, you need to make sure your documentation is air-tight, in order, and submitted correctly and on time. We’ve done that more times than we can count, so you can leave it all with us. This way, you know for sure that you don’t miss any of the crucial steps needed when you’re seeking a default divorce.
Finally, we have a pretty good team of resources that can help you and your kids (if you got ‘em) through all this. We can recommend some truly excellent therapists and mental health professionals, as well as financial planners. We’d help with all of this even if your spouse isn’t being a dope, but when a divorce is especially rough, it’s nice to know you’ve got people rooting for you.
Whether your spouse is fighting over your claim to alimony, is trying to claim you make more money than you do so they can collect more child support, wants a larger and disproportionate share of the assets, or simply refuses to agree to divorce under the same grounds as you listed, you want an attorney who can handle every challenge. When you feel like your back is against the wall, we will make a door or open a window. To schedule a consultation with one of our Knoxville divorce attorneys, call our office at (865) 637-6258, or fill out our contact form today.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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