Divorcing On Your Own: How to Split from an Unresponsive Spouse

Getting a divorce is hard enough when both people agree on the split. The legal and financial requirements of a divorce are strict even when you can collaborate with your ex. If your partner doesn’t want to split, or if they actively ignore your attempts to leave, it can feel like the process is impossible.

Don’t worry. Even if your spouse isn’t responding to you, you can still end your marriage. It just takes a little more work and time. Keep reading to learn whether your spouse can ignore your divorce papers and how to split from your partner when they won’t even talk to you about it.

Reasons Your Spouse May Not Respond to Divorce Paperwork

No two relationships are the same. That means that there are hundreds of potential reasons for your partner’s reason for unresponsiveness. You may need to get a divorce without your partner present if:

  • They don’t want the marriage to end
  • They want to “punish” you for ending the relationship by making it as hard as possible
  • They are out of the country or on deployment
  • They’re considered mentally incompetent or unconscious
  • They’re a missing person

Not all of these reasons are your spouse’s fault. Still, they make getting a divorce harder than it has to be.

Can Your Spouse Ignore Divorce Papers?

Yes and no. Divorce papers are legal documents with important deadlines and requirements attached. While the court can’t force your partner to read and sign the papers, ignoring them for too long can have serious consequences.

For example, if your spouse doesn’t file an answer to your divorce summons on time, they waive their right to participate in the legal proceedings. You may be able to do the entire process without their input. If they respond to the original filing but ignore deadlines later, they could also be held in contempt of court and face fines or even jail time.

Your spouse cannot legally stop you from divorcing them no matter what they do. While they can try to drag out the process, there’s no legal way for one spouse to force a relationship to continue. California is a no-fault divorce state, which means you don’t need a reason or an agreement to end your marriage. As long as you stick with it, your marriage will be over eventually.

Three Tips to Divorce Without Your Spouse

While splitting from an uncooperative partner is tricky, it’s certainly not impossible. You can streamline the process significantly by planning out your strategy in advance. If you suspect that your spouse won’t respond when you try to get a divorce, you can follow these three tips to keep the process moving.

1. Get Legal Help

The most important thing you can do for your future is to find a great divorce lawyer. An uncooperative or unresponsive partner can make divorcing them more complicated. By working with an experienced attorney, you don’t need to worry about issues like deadlines or submitting paperwork on your own. Your attorney will have the experience and knowledge necessary to handle your spouse’s behavior and keep your split on track.

2. Serve Your Spouse

This can be the hardest part of getting a divorce from an unresponsive partner. The legal process officially begins once your partner has been served the paperwork. If they are trying to prevent or delay your split, they may make it difficult to do this.

The best way to make sure your spouse is served in a reasonable timeframe is to hire a process server. These professionals are dedicated to tracking people down and serving them with legal documents. A process server will take responsibility for making sure your partner receives the documents and will act as an official witness that the papers were actually served.

Once the papers have been served, you need to wait for a response. This takes patience. Once someone has been served, they have 30 days to file an answer. If they miss that deadline, then the court will proceed without them.

3. Proceed with a Default, Uncontested, or Contested Divorce

There are three possibilities you may face once you’ve managed to serve your spouse. If they don’t respond by the deadline, you can petition the court for a default judgment. A default judgment is a one-sided judgment without the presence of the unresponsive party. Since your partner isn’t there, the judge will usually agree to all of your requests and make rulings regarding asset division, alimony, child custody, and support without your partner’s input. If your partner completely ignores you, the process is actually more straightforward.

If your spouse does respond, then you’ll either have a contested or uncontested divorce. In an uncontested split, you and your partner agree on all terms, including the division of assets. This is a faster and more convenient situation.

However, if your spouse disagrees with your terms, then you’ll need to present your cases in court. Your partner may use this to try to drag out your split even longer. Your attorney will help you manage the legal proceedings, especially if your partner misses court dates and ignores summons.

Still, once you’ve gotten to this point, you’re almost done. Your lawyer will help you wrap up the process and get you out of your marriage sooner rather than later.

End Your Marriage Your Way

No matter why your partner won’t talk to you, nothing is stopping you from getting a divorce. Once you get the process started, you’re legally guaranteed to be single again soon. Your spouse’s refusal or inability to cooperate can make things harder, but it won’t prevent you from getting the clean start you need.

A great divorce attorney will make all the difference in how quickly your split is finalized. The right lawyer will help you navigate the complications presented by an unresponsive spouse without wasting time. You can get in touch with experienced California divorce lawyers today to schedule your consultation and prepare to end your marriage your way.

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Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a family law firm with offices in Corte Madera, CA; Napa, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; and San Diego, CA. We also represent clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pismo Beach, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles.