What to Do When Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

Marriage is hard but ending a marriage can be even harder. This is particularly true if one partner either does not want the divorce or decides to make the process as difficult as possible. One way they can do this is by simply refusing to cooperate with any of the process – essentially ignoring or denying what is happening. If you prepare and file all of the papers appropriately and then your spouse won’t sign them, it doesn’t mean that you’re permanently trapped in your marriage. It may, however, mean that the process is going to take a lot longer than it would if your spouse was cooperating.

If you’re seeking a divorce in the state of Pennsylvania, you have the choice of filing a no-fault divorce or a fault divorce. No fault divorces are uncontested and fall into the category of either “mutual consent” or “irretrievable breakdown.” When a couple both agrees to ending the marriage as quickly as possible and opts for a mutual consent divorce, all that’s needed to finalize the process is for both to file affidavits requesting the divorce and then to wait a mandatory 90-day period. Irretrievable breakdown is a more challenging process that requires living separately for at least one year. Only after that time period is over can one party file an affidavit indicating the date that the separation began and asserting that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” That document gets filed with both the court and the spouse. If there is no argument against the affidavit or claim for economic relief within 40 days, the divorce can be finalized.

If your spouse responds to the affidavit by denying that separation occurred or contesting the divorce, then you may need to file a fault divorce on one of the following grounds:

  • Willful and malicious desertion
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and barbarous treatment, endangering life or health of injured and innocent spouse
  • Bigamy
  • Imprisonment for more than 2 years
  • Intolerable and burdensome indignities to spouse
  • Institutionalization in a mental institution at least 18 months prior to and expected subsequent to filing

Every divorce is unique and every situation is different. The best way to navigate the challenge of a spouse who is unwilling to sign divorce papers is with the guidance and support of an experienced divorce attorney. For help with your particular case, contact our office today to set up a time for us to talk.