Can You Divorce Your Spouse Without Their Consent?

Divorce, Relationships

no-fault divorce - squareAll states now allow couples to divorce without one being abusive or unfaithful; not getting along can be grounds enough for being granted a divorce. However, every divorce has a few major hoops to jump through before being granted. Your spouse’s resistance to cooperate can be the biggest hurdle on the path to ending your marriage.

What Is No-Fault Divorce?

A no-fault divorce is one where a couple dissolves their marriage by mutual consent, based on something like “irreconcilable differences,” rather than requiring one spouse to accuse the other of adultery, abuse, imprisonment, or abandonment. New York became the last state to adopt no-fault divorce laws in 2010; however, divorce trials around the country can still be lengthy, so don’t expect an easy split. If your spouse refuses to cooperate — or they’re nowhere to be found — you can still divorce them. It will likely be a longer process in this case, but you can’t legally be held prisoner to an intolerable marriage.

Getting a Divorce Without Your Spouse’s Signature

Getting a divorce when your spouse is uncooperative — or completely M.I.A. — will be a longer process, but it is possible. Contested divorces — ones where issues remain to be resolved — are much more difficult than those where couples agree on how split their assets (let alone agree to divorce in the first place). In some states you must serve divorce papers in person. Usually, however, states may permit serving papers by publication (in the newspaper) or having them served by someone else. If you can’t find your prospective ex, you must show the court that you have exercised due diligence in trying to locate them. Do you have common friends?  Have you contacted their relatives? Are they on Facebook? Be prepared to answer these questions when the judge asks.

What If I’m the One Who Doesn’t Want A Divorce?

Your spouse cannot easily divorce you without your knowledge; the court will do all it can to make sure measures are taken to serve you with papers. If you refuse to respond to your spouse’s divorce petition, it will delay the process, but not prevent divorce altogether. If you think refusing to sign papers is a great way to punish your wannabe ex, the joke’s on you; your spouse may be able to obtain a default against you within 20 or 30 days after you are served, curtailing your rights to spousal support, child support, and property (including retirement benefits).

Many things can delay the divorce process, but eventually the marriage can be legally ended whether all parties involved like it or not.