Divorces are challenging, and when the decision to split up is not yours, you end up not signing divorce papers. It’s easy to walk away and avoid this whole annoying process. After all, the divorce can’t happen without your signature. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Ignoring that your partner just filed for divorce will not stop the process and might lead to further complications. It’s always best that you get involved in your divorce even if you’re not satisfied with such a decision. Despite your feelings towards the split, your spouse can still get a divorce decree; thus, you should participate and protect your rights.

How a judge treats such situations depends on your state. Some might proceed with the case as “uncontested divorce,” while others will allow a “default divorce.”

Uncontested Vs. Contested Divorce

Uncontested vs contested divorce definition

Divorce involves two parties: the petitioner (the one who files a divorce) and the respondent ( the one who receives the divorce papers). You can identify if a divorce is “contested” or “uncontested” based on how the respondent reacts.

– Uncontested Divorce

This is the easiest type of divorce, and it is when you and your spouse have filed the necessary paperwork and agree on the following issues:

Once you have reached a divorce agreement, you must go to the court with all the necessary paperwork and wait for the judge to approve it and issue related orders.

In case your agreement includes child custody and support, the judge will ensure the terms related to parenting are in the best interests of your child and comply with the state’s regulations. Suppose both parties file a divorce petition correctly, but one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers. In that case, courts might allow the case to proceed as if it was uncontested (depending on your state).

To add, you might need to wait for a court appearance date, and if your spouse fails to show up, then the court will also treat the divorce as “uncontested.” Thus, the judge will proceed with the case without the other spouse and decide based on what the present spouse says. Finally, the judge will issue a “judgment” or “decree” order which officially ends the marriage. The divorce decree includes marital property, debt, ownership of pets, children, and spousal support.

– Contested Divorce

This is when your wife or husband refuses to divorce and declines anything included in the divorce case (i.e., financial support, property division, child custody, and others).

A contested divorce is much more complicated than an uncontested divorce, and it might last for more than 18 months. Thus, always seek help from an experienced divorce attorney.

What Happens If You Don’t Sign Divorce Papers?

To file for divorce means to file a petition which will set out marital assets and other important information. A divorce petition allows the petitioner to explain the reasons behind their decision clearly. Once filed for divorce, the petitioner must notify the respondent by sending a copy of the petition and other significant documents through mail or personal services. The respondent will have a deadline to send their response.

Thus, it is their opportunity to share their side of the story and state whether they agree or not with their spouse’s statements. However, if the respondent chooses not to respond, the petitioner (or the other spouse) will proceed with the next step.

Avoidance and Publication

Attorney explaining what will happen if you dont sign the divorce papersMost attorneys recommend responding and signing the petition, yet, not everyone follows this advice. Suppose one spouse won’t sign the divorce papers or refuses to answer and avoids the paperwork.

In that case, the other party can ask permission for service by publication. Thus, they will be able to publish the divorce petition in county papers for a specific number of days. However, if the spouse still refuses to respond, they will lose all their rights in the divorce case.

Requesting Default Judgement

Suppose a spouse is still refusing to sign the divorce papers and continues avoiding the petition.

In that case, the other party will likely request a final hearing. Once the judge accepts the request, he will invite the refusing spouse to attend the final hearing. If they choose to ignore the judge’s request, then the court has no choice but to proceed with the divorce case and consider only the filed petition facts.

At this point, the ignoring spouse’s opinion will no longer matter, and the court will issue the divorce based on the initial petition. In other words, the default judgment favors the petitioner (or the spouse who filed for divorce).

What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Sign Divorce Papers?

If your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, try to communicate with them and determine the reason behind their actions. There might be a logical explanation behind their decision, including that they are still hoping to work things out and save the marriage.

In this case, it is essential to sympathize with your spouse while they go through a rollercoaster of emotions. Anger and sadness can be overwhelming and lead to irrational decisions. Try to sit down with your spouse and clearly explain why you don’t feel like this marriage will work anymore and why you are no longer happy and satisfied.

Perhaps your spouse is thinking that refusing to sign the divorce papers gives them the power over you. Thus, they might believe that they will be able to push you to sacrifice some things for the sake of moving on with the divorce. In such cases, try to avoid any manipulations and get help from your divorce attorney.

Argument because the spouse doesnt want to sign thr divorce papersAnother common reason behind your spouse’s refusal to sign the divorce papers is that they are just trying to make things harder on you. Divorces bring out the worst in couples, and refusing to sign the documents can be a means to complicate things and cause extra trouble. If so, your spouse will eventually sign the papers and move on with the divorce.

Why does it matter to know why your spouse is acting the way they are? It will merely help you understand how to better deal with the situation and what your spouse is hoping to achieve through their actions.

Possible Complications

Since you can file for divorce without your spouse’s signature, why waste time convincing them to respond and sign the divorce petition? As already mentioned, it is easier to proceed with divorce when both parties agree to cooperate.

If you tried everything and your spouse is still refusing to cooperate, mediation is your best option.

Meeting with a mediator can calm the tensions in a couple and help with agreements. In most cases, couples leave their mediation session completely satisfied, and both sign the papers. A mediation will accelerate the divorce process and make things easier for everyone. Consult with your lawyer to find the perfect mediator for your divorce case


Sometimes you might not be able to get your spouse to sign the divorce papers simply because they disappeared a long time ago, and you can’t find them anywhere. In such cases, all courts allow divorce under abandonment.

The court will require a waiting period of 6 months and will attempt to contact the missing spouse. If all attempts fail, the court will then grant a divorce without a hearing.


What happens if you dont sign divorce papers

  • Any law firms or attorneys will stress the importance of both parties signing the divorce agreement. Divorce without spouse signature will lead to complications and a longer process.
  • If spouses cannot agree on the divorce by signing the paperwork, the court will impose its terms. It is best to find a way to communicate with your spouse through peaceful negotiation or even mediation.
  • Try not to refuse to sign your divorce papers, and make sure that you share your part of the story in front of the court. This way, you will secure your rights and reach a fair agreement with your spouse.

You will have 30 days to respond to the divorce papers. If you choose not to, the judge will issue a default judgment. This last means that the court will accept all the terms that your spouse proposed. Thus, you will lose your opportunity to fight for your rights.

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Divorce & Finance