What to Do if Your Spouse Will Not Sign Divorce Papers

By Anna Green

In most jurisdictions, both spouses must sign divorce papers in order for a marriage to be formally dissolved. If your spouse is unwilling to sign the divorce papers, you still may be able to move forward with your case. To do so can be legally difficult, however, and may require the assistance of a divorce lawyer.

Talk to an Attorney

If you and your spouse are handling the divorce without an attorney, and he or she refuses to sign the papers, it could be time to consult a lawyer. Your attorney can review the documents and verify that they are in compliance with the law and are fair to both you and your spouse.

If your spouse also retains an attorney, your respective lawyers can work together to come to an agreement that you and your spouse may not be able to reach on your own. Even if your attorneys are not able to reach an agreement, a lawyer can formulate a strategy on how to present your case to the court and move forward in the divorce without your spouse's signature.

Use a Divorce Mediator

Since your judgment can be clouded by emotion during a divorce, working with an impartial third party can help you assess the situation objectively. Divorce mediators are generally paid for jointly by both spouses to ensure that the mediator remains neutral.

During divorce mediation, both spouses will present their cases and outline what they would like to see in a divorce agreement. The mediator will consider both arguments and help the parties reach an agreement. She also might offer her professional opinions on how to dispose of financial, property and child custody matters. At the conclusion of mediation sessions, the mediator will prepare a document summarizing the details of your agreement that you can submit to the court along with your divorce papers.

If you already retained a lawyer, he may attend the mediation session with you and testify to your financial and legal needs.

Be Willing to Compromise

Consider the specific reason that your spouse is unwilling to sign the divorce papers and ask yourself whether your demands are reasonable. To avoid dragging out the proceedings, ask yourself whether your spouse's objections are areas in which you might be able to compromise. If so, consider conceding that issue to your spouse or provide a counter-proposal that better meet's your spouse's needs.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.