Refusal to sign divorce papers in Texas

Last Updated on May 2024

Divorce is usually the last solution for couples whose marriages have reached their breaking point. Very often, one partner initiates the process, ready to move forward, while the other party either hesitates or feels reluctant to split. The unwillingness to terminate a marriage can be manifested in different ways. The refusal to sign divorce papers is one of the most frustrating and time-consuming divorce scenarios.

When one person files for divorce but the other spouse doesn’t want to cooperate, a petitioner may feel confused and helpless. However, though the situation is unpleasant, legal strategies to deal with the problem are still possible. In this article, we will overview a general case when a responding spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, touch upon possible consequences, and provide step-by-step instructions for addressing such a challenge.

What Happens If Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers in Texas?

People refusing to sign divorce documents may have different motives, but usually, they want to delay or stop a divorce altogether. However, no matter how hard they try to disrupt a standard marriage dissolution procedure in Texas, it still carries on but will involve some additional steps.

What Happens If My Spouse Doesn’t Respond to a Divorce Petition?

When people are on amicable terms about their official breakup, they usually apply for divorce, submit signed divorce papers, prepare a settlement agreement, and have their marriage dissolved quickly and affordably. However, things may not evolve so smoothly when one partner feels averse about ending a marriage and doesn’t sign divorce forms.

If that is the case but a petitioner is determined to regain a single status, they can ask the court to grant a “default divorce.” It means that a case initiator will eventually receive a Final Decree of Divorce even without the other spouse’s consent or signature.

In general, such divorce proceedings take longer, as a petitioner is obliged to try all available ways to serve a defendant and have them sign divorce documents. If neither method yields the needed outcome, the judge will likely approve a default divorce, meaning all petitioner’s claims concerning marriage dissolution will likely be accepted.

How Long Can a Spouse Drag Out a Divorce?

Intentionally prolonging a divorce by not signing relevant papers is a very bad idea. A defendant can complicate marriage dissolution greatly by doing so.

Defining how much a non-cooperative spouse can delay a divorce is hard, but the longer they hold divorce papers, the more time-consuming the entire process will become. In Texas, there is no clear answer to the question, “How long can someone sign divorce papers?” In general, a defendant takes some time to read delivered documents, consult with a lawyer if needed, and accept or contest claims made by a petitioner by filing an answer. Yet, when the other party is opposed to signing documents, a standard procedure is violated and extended.

If nothing happens during this period and a petitioner has used all possible serving methods, they may seek a default judgment from the court.

Here Is What You Can Do If Your Spouse Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers

Regardless of why your spouse refrains from signing divorce documents, you can do the following to finalize a divorce:

1. Complete a Mandatory Waiting Period

Texas, like other states, has an obligatory waiting period for divorcing couples, which is 60 days from the moment a petitioner submits forms to the court and pays a filing fee. This time interval is usually regarded as an opportunity for spouses to calm down, reassert their decision, and negotiate disputes, if any.

A waiting period may also serve a useful purpose when one partner doesn’t want to sign divorce papers. A responding party may cool off, accept the fact of the marriage ending, and eventually sign divorce papers. However, it doesn’t always happen this way.

2. Serve Your Spouse with Divorce Papers

The copies of divorce forms can be delivered to the other party in several different ways. Typically, petitioners choose personal service, meaning a sheriff or constable will hand the papers to a defendant. However, if a spouse refuses to sign documents, standard methods may be useless.

In that case, you can opt for alternative methods: certified mail with a return receipt requested or publication in a local newspaper for a specific period.

3. File a Request to Enter a Default Judgment

If your spouse doesn’t accept and sign divorce documents, you can file a motion for default judgment. You need to submit papers to the court that examines your case. Typically, you are required to prepare a package of forms, including the Original Petition for Divorce, Proof of Service, and a statement denoting that your spouse failed to respond.

Once the motion for a default divorce is filed, you have to serve notice of the hearing on the defendant to give them a chance to contest the default judgment. When the court schedules the default hearing, you need to attend it, explain your situation, and present evidence backing up your request for seeking a default judgment. 

4. Attend Mediation

Sometimes, reaching out to a certified mediator may help partners resolve disputes and convince an uncooperative spouse to sign divorce documents. A mediator is a neutral third party who doesn’t provide a couple with particular legal advice or solutions but facilitates communication and offers working techniques for the spouses to reach a satisfying decision themselves.

While communicating in a safe and convenient environment, parties can be honest about their worries related to divorce and discuss the true reasons for one of them to reject signing divorce papers. It is always worth trying to turn a contested and lengthy divorce into a more peaceful and quicker marriage termination.

5. Hire an Attorney

Another way to navigate a divorce procedure when one spouse complicates it by not endorsing paperwork is to contact an attorney specializing in such legal matters. A lawyer knowledgeable about divorce laws and procedures in your jurisdiction may help you plan your future steps to eventually receive the desired Final Decree of Divorce.

Besides, if you opt for full-scope assistance, a lawyer may not only give you legal recommendations but also take care of all tasks along the way. This strategy is very convenient if marriage dissolution is prolonged. However, your divorce expenses may rise greatly.

Do Both Parties Have to Sign Divorce Papers?

In Texas, the court will review a divorce case even if a non-filing spouse doesn’t sign divorce documents. Though such behavior makes the whole process longer and more stressful, it won’t stop divorce at all.

What Happens if You Don’t Sign Divorce Papers?

If you are a defendant in a divorce case and ask, “Do I have to sign divorce papers?”, the short answer is “Yes.” Usually, such thoughts bother people who refuse to divorce for any reason. However, any attempts to halt the process do no good because a petitioner will ultimately cut marital ties even if it takes a bit longer.

Sometimes, people ask, “If I am served divorce papers, can I refuse to accept them?” Once again, not accepting divorce documents just postpones the final court decision but doesn’t withdraw it. Besides, if you don’t actively participate in your marriage dissolution, you may risk losing any say in the process. Therefore, the judge will approve all claims made by your partner in the Original Petition for Divorce regarding asset division, child custody, etc. You may regret behaving this way in the future.

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