What Happens if I Do Not Sign the Divorce Papers?

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Divorce Law
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.

If you do not sign the divorce papers, it can make things inconvenient for your spouse. However, it does not stop the divorce from happening. One spouse can get a divorce even if the other spouse refuses to cooperate.

If you have questions about the divorce itself or any terms relating to divorce, you should speak with your divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Unfortunately, you cannot change the course of divorce proceedings simply by refusing to sign the papers. Learn more about what happens during the divorce process and finalizing a divorce.

What Divorce Proceedings Entail in Alabama

Before initiating a divorce, it can be helpful to talk things over with everyone involved, if possible.

This may include:

  • Your spouse
  • Your children
  • Other relatives

These discussions can help inform your spouse of what is happening in the family. Speaking to others close to you can offer advice and emotional support during a tough time. It can also help you determine if your spouse may present difficulties during the divorce.

Once you are ready to make your divorce official, your legal options depend on various factors, including:

  • Whether you and your spouse completely agree or you face points of contention in the divorce
  • Whether you have children, pets, or other dependents to consider
  • What kinds of assets and debts you need to split

Your divorce will either be contested or uncontested, depending on these factors. Learn about the differences between these divorce types below.

Contested Divorce

If you face any disagreement between you and your spouse, you will file a contested divorce. Even if you agree on some matters but not others, this situation still leads to a contested divorce.

These disagreements may concern any legal issues, including:

  • The necessity of the divorce itself
  • Who gets what assets
  • Who gets what debts
  • Alimony payments
  • Child support payments
  • Custody agreements

A divorce attorney can protect and defend your rights in a contested divorce. They can speak for your voice and ensure that the divorce process is as equitable as possible. If your spouse refuses to respond to a divorce complaint early in the process or disagrees with the terms in your complaint, you may have a contested divorce.

Your attorney can represent and support you through:

  • Case building: You may need evidence to show you have a right to the assets and agreements you seek. Your lawyer would collect relevant documents, depositions from involved parties, and more.
  • Submission of paperwork: Whether you initiated the divorce or have to respond to your spouse’s petition, you must submit various forms promptly to protect your rights.
  • Negotiation: Your lawyer would meet with your spouse and try to find some middle ground between what you want and what they want. Successful negotiations can save you the time, trouble, and money of going to court.
  • Court hearings: If all else fails, your lawyer can argue your case before a judge who handles divorces in your area. The judge would listen to both sides of the case and issue an order.
  • The entire process: Your attorney can stand by you if you have doubts, questions, or concerns at any point in the process.

Contested divorces can take a long time—months or even years—to finalize. This can prove stressful and frustrating, but you do not have to go through it alone.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both parties find complete agreement about everything. As a result, you can get the divorce over with much quicker, especially if you hire a divorce attorney to guide you through the process and ensure everything gets taken care of at every step.

If you or your spouse realize you do not completely agree, your uncontested divorce may become a contested one, and your lawyer would have to prepare to take your case to court.

If your spouse objects after reaching an agreement after finalizing the divorce papers, they would have no recourse for appeal. An uncontested divorce offers limited options if one or both spouses change their minds later.

Getting Divorced From a Difficult Spouse

Divorce often proves emotionally challenging, but it can be more so when your spouse refuses to cooperate at a basic level. Even if you disagree about who gets a particular asset, communicating and talking things out often serves both parties, even if you must talk through your attorneys. You may feel a significant burden if you must force your spouse to participate in the proceedings.

You have several options when trying to divorce an uncooperative spouse, including:

  • Speaking with your attorney: If you have not already done so, appraise your attorney of the situation. They can advise you on making sure your divorce proceeds smoothly and safely.
  • Speaking with the judge: If your case has already gone to court, you or your lawyer can talk to the judge about handling a recalcitrant spouse.
  • Getting a protection order: In cases where the spouse shows abusive behaviors or makes threats, filing for a protection order may prove a good idea. This way, you can proceed with the divorce in peace without worrying about how your spouse will react.

On a personal level, make sure to take care of yourself throughout the divorce. Take some time to relax, do things you enjoy, turn to friends for support, or join a divorce support group in your area. If you have children, spend extra time with them to explain the family’s experiences and help them through this rough period.

Why Might Someone Not Sign Divorce Papers?

A person may decide not to sign divorce papers for many reasons. However, they probably disagree about some fundamental aspects of the divorce.

This could include:

  • Custody arrangements: Deciding who gets custody of and visits the children can prove a very contentious issue, especially if you aim to keep your child away from your spouse (e.g., your spouse displayed irresponsible or abusive behaviors).
  • Asset or debt division: Your spouse may feel that they have not received a fair share of your assets or that you should take a greater share of the debts incurred during your marriage.
  • Payments: They could disagree about being asked to pay alimony or child support, or they may want more money through such payments.
  • The judge’s decision: If your case went to court and the judge ruled against your spouse, they may express their frustration with the decision by not signing the divorce papers.
  • The divorce itself: In some cases, if someone does not want to get divorced, they may refuse to sign the papers as a show of protest or in the mistaken belief that it will stop the divorce from going through.

Simply refusing to sign divorce papers does not lead to the best way to handle any of these disagreements. On the contrary, it often proves ineffective, as the divorce can get decided by default.

Direct communication can be beneficial in the divorce process, whether you speak directly to each other or through your attorneys. The sooner you raise your objection, the more time your attorney has to find a way to resolve the issue before the divorce papers are final.

Finalizing a Divorce in Alabama

Once you and your spouse agree or the judge issues an order, you will both receive divorce papers. Signing these papers means you agree to abide by these decisions and recognize the documents as legal and binding.

Finalizing a divorce means that you and your former spouse have a good reason for seeking a divorce under Alabama law, and your marriage is over. For many, signing divorce papers brings a freeing experience. An unhappy marriage ends, and so do the divorce proceedings. You can now focus on your post-divorce life.

This experience can prove more complicated when a spouse does not sign the divorce papers. However, as mentioned previously, the spouse that wants a divorce can still seek and finalize the divorce even if their partner does not sign the papers.

The Purpose of Divorce Papers

Divorce papers put a period at the end of your marriage. They show that the divorce is final and that you and your ex-spouse no longer have any obligation to each other beyond the details in the divorce agreement.

That said, you can still get a divorce even if your spouse:

  • Objected to the divorce from the start
  • Changes their mind and refuses to sign despite prior cooperation
  • Abandoned you, and you cannot locate them

You do not deserve to remain stuck in a bad marriage just because your spouse refuses to work with you. While you may naturally worry about what happens if your spouse does not sign the divorce papers, having a problematic spouse does not mean you cannot get a divorce. You can end your marriage even if they refuse to sign anything.

Feel free to speak with your attorney whenever you have concerns about your divorce’s progress. They represented clients through all kinds of divorces and could help you through yours.

Changing Your Mind About Divorce

Divorce is a major life event that no one should take lightly. You should not file for divorce unless you are confident this offers the best course of action. Once proceedings start, you, your spouse, and your attorney should stay in regular and open communication regarding all divorce matters.

However, you cannot avoid some changes.

For example:

  • Working on the divorce has made you realize its finality, so you want to give reconciliation another chance.
  • Your circumstances change—for example, your job compels you to move far away, necessitating a modification of child custody arrangements.
  • You learn something new about your spouse or the circumstances that led to the divorce that forced you to reevaluate either the divorce itself or the terms of the agreement.

If you change your mind about getting a divorce or any provision you previously agreed to, do not hesitate to contact your spouse or lawyer. As already discussed, once a decision is final and you have the papers, you cannot stop the divorce from going through if your spouse wants to dissolve the marriage.

If you change your mind during the proceedings, your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer could come to a new agreement with which both of you can live. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for a change if you need it. A divorce can enable you to live life in the way that will make you happiest.

If Both of You Change Your Minds

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

When one spouse changes their mind about the divorce, and the other does not, serious problems can arise. It may take longer for your divorce to finalize, and your attorneys must spend much more time negotiating.

However, if you both decided not to get divorced or to change a provision of the divorce agreement, it may prove easier to make that change, assuming it did not already go into effect.

Again, keep your lawyer in the loop so they know what is happening and how to best fight for your interests.

Get Help With Divorce Papers and More

Divorce lawyers understand how draining and confusing divorce proceedings can be. A lawyer can guide you through the entire process and answer your questions about what happens if you do not sign the divorce papers, how to retain your rightful assets, and more.

Many law firms offer no-obligation case evaluations. During this call, you can understand your next steps.

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