It’s only natural that you want the divorce process to run as smoothly as possible. After all, a long and complicated case is stressful and expensive. Particularly if there are children involved, you’ll want to keep things simple for their peace of mind as much as your own.
In the best case scenarios, a divorce in Florida can be relatively quick and painless. Indeed, in uncontested divorce cases, only a single party — either you or your spouse — needs to attend the final hearing. Unfortunately, many men find their divorce isn’t quite so straightforward in this state. Indeed, even when you think you’re almost at the end of your process, there are ways for your ex to throw obstacles in the way. One common way for them to do this is by refusing to sign the divorce papers.
Let’s take a closer look at this issue. What happens if your spouse won’t sign divorce papers and what can you do about it?
Why Might They Refuse?
Refusing to sign divorce papers might sound counterproductive. After all, it would make sense that you both want to see an end to the process and move on with your respective lives. So, why might your ex put this hurdle in the way? It’s important to understand their reasons, as this can inform your next steps. Some of the common reasons for refusing to sign divorce papers include:
Disagreement with Terms
Your final divorce agreement will set out the terms of your split. There will be details about the division of debts and assets, timelines for transfer of property, and potentially child custody arrangements among other elements. This forms a legally binding contract that could see you or your spouse facing contempt of court charges if you fail to abide by them. Your ex may decide that they no longer feel the terms of the divorce are fair or that they aren’t getting what they have decided they’re entitled to. As a result, they might refuse to sign the divorce papers until such time that new terms have been agreed upon.
A Change of Heart
A divorce is an emotionally-charged situation and represents a significant lifestyle change for you, your ex, and your children. While you might still be certain that a divorce is the most healthy and positive route forward for everyone concerned, your ex may have changed their mind. They might have become scared by the prospect of such a huge life change or living apart from your shared children. They might be under the impression that you can still work through the problems in your marriage. As such, they could refuse to sign your papers in the hope of a reconciliation.
If your split has been acrimonious, your ex might refuse to sign divorce papers for no other reason than it makes things more difficult for you. Logically, you know that a longer and more complex legal process makes things difficult for everyone involved. Unfortunately, your former spouse’s actions here are not based on sensible thinking. They may want to cause you financial hardship with a more drawn-out court case. It’s conceivable that they just want to make the matter more stressful for you. They could also try and argue for a greater share of assets or custody than you for no reason but to inconvenience you or cause you pain.
Lack of Understanding About Divorce
Some people refuse to sign divorce papers because they don’t have a solid understanding of how divorce works in Florida. Your ex may not want a divorce for a variety of reasons and be under the ill-informed impression that they can prevent the process by refusing to sign papers. Thankfully, this is not the case. Florida is a no-fault state, which means that only one spouse has to assert your incompatibility or irreconcilable differences for a divorce to proceed. As long as one of you doesn’t wish for the marriage to continue, a refusal to sign divorce papers won’t halt the process.
Can You Arrange a Divorce Anyway?
As noted in the previous section, Florida is a no-fault state. Therefore, even if your former spouse refuses to sign the papers, there is nothing to stop you from getting a divorce. Unfortunately, their actions can certainly dictate the route you need to take to get to this point and the length of time it will take for you to dissolve your union.
If the reason your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers is because they disagree with the terms or if they’re throwing up hurdles out of spite, this can turn a previously uncontested divorce into a contested divorce. As such, it will usually require your respective attorneys to go back to the drawing board in terms of negotiations regarding assets division and custody arrangements. If disputes continue, a court date to settle the matter is likely to be in order.
In instances where your spouse has a change of heart or they don’t fully understand Florida divorce law, there may be potential to solve the matter with further discussions. This can be a difficult prospect, especially if your former spouse is keen to remain married to you but you are certain that it is best to move on. Clear communication of your decision and intention to proceed with the divorce may be sufficient. In many cases, a letter from your attorney setting out your intentions alongside a clear explanation of Florida law in respect of no-fault divorces could be enough to get things moving again.
With any of these instances, if your spouse is still immovable on their decision not to sign divorce papers, you are still able to move forward. Your family law attorney will need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the courts. This is essentially asking the court to proceed with the divorce as though it is uncontested.
The court will review the circumstances and arrange for a process server to serve the papers to your ex at their home, workplace, or other location. In most cases, your ex will be given around 30 days to either sign the papers or respond with their objections. If this period lapses and they still don’t respond or sign, the judge can grant the divorce. This doesn’t mean to say all the terms will necessarily be in your favor. The judge will simply review the case and make decisions on elements such as division of assets and custody without your spouse’s input.
How Should You Proceed?
If your spouse is refusing to sign divorce papers, your first step is to inform your divorce attorney at the earliest opportunity. Provide them with the details of any response your ex has given you following your request for a signature and any actions they have taken that have made things difficult for you.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to work with an attorney that is experienced in representing men during divorce in Florida. They will be able to collaborate with you in establishing the most efficient and effective route forward. This will usually involve sending formal correspondence to your spouse or their attorney. It may simply be proceeding with filing a petition with the courts. They’ll also help you to represent your case in contested divorce cases so you gain a fair division of assets and custody.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in divorce proceedings. Our knowledge and skills help our clients handle contested divorces and navigate the hurdles related to a spouse’s refusal to sign papers. In a court system that can feel prejudiced against men, we have the experience and dedication to help you obtain a fair and final divorce. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.