How to File a Motion for Divorce if a Spouse Is Stalling

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Some spouses choose to stall on divorce proceedings for a number of reasons -- perhaps in an attempt to save the marriage, get a better settlement or even to act vindictively toward their soon-to-be exes. The spouse who desires a divorce can still move forward with the motion, however. Most jurisdictions will not allow divorce proceedings to linger unresolved for an interminable period. It may take longer than you hoped for, but divorces can be resolved even with a stalling spouse.

Learn the laws in your jurisdiction about contested divorces. Some states require a certain period of living apart, for example.

Prepare evidence for the court to show why the contested divorce should be granted. Evidence can include proof of adultery, abandonment, abuse or indications that the marriage is irrevocably broken.

Obtain the divorce petition from the proper court and complete it fully, inserting evidence of a broken marriage as appropriate.

File the petition with the court. This sets the motion for divorce in action.

Serve the stalling spouse with divorce papers, which compels him or her to respond. This can be accomplished through in-person delivery, mail or by a sheriff's deputy or process server. In extreme cases, a spouse may be considered served when the petition is published in the newspaper for a set period of time.

Return to the court if the spouse continues stalling. Based on evidence or on laws, such as a waiting period, the court will eventually finalize the divorce.


  • Do not return to cohabiting with a stalling spouse if you wish to move forward with a divorce. Doing so could reset the clock on any mandatory waiting period.


  • Consider hiring legal representation from the outset. A lawyer familiar with local laws will be a big asset in navigating the divorce process.
  • Try to maintain contact with your stalling spouse to see if he or she can be persuaded to cooperate.


About the Author

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.