What Papers Do I Need To File To Begin Divorce Proceedings?

What Papers Do I Need To File To Begin Divorce Proceedings?

Filing for Divorce

Divorce begins when a divorce petition, or complaint, is filed. The divorce petition is a formal complaint, typically put together by one spouse with the help of a divorce lawyer. It’s filed with the divorce court and then served on the other spouse. The divorce petition usually must be filed in the county of residence of the person filing for divorce regardless of where the couple was married. The spouse who files the divorce petition is known thereafter as the petitioner, and the other spouse as the respondent. These roles don’t change, even if the respondent later files a petition against the original petitioner to resolve an issue related to the marriage.

Divorce Paperwork

The divorce petition asks the divorce court to grant a divorce or dissolution based on a particular reason. In no-fault divorce, the reason stated is often “irreconcilable differences.” The divorce petition must also identify the spouses, any children and the issues of the divorce. The petitioner states in the divorce petition his or her wishes regarding child custody, child support, alimony, property division and other marital issues, asking the court for an order granting the requests.

What Papers Do You Need to Get a Divorce?

A divorce case begins when you file a petition for divorce and deliver it to your spouse. You’ll also typically file a financial affidavit that describes your income, expenses, and property. Other common documents include a settlement agreement and a parenting plan.

Here’s an overview of these basic divorce papers and where to get them.

Different states have different divorce forms and different laws. However, some documents are common across the board.

1. Dissolution of Marriage Petition
To start a divorce, file a document known as a “petition” with your local court and pay a filing fee. A divorce petition includes basic information, like the names of the parties, the county you live in, when you were married, and your grounds for divorce. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you may be able to get it waived.
Unless you and your spouse file for divorce jointly, you’ll also need a summons. A summons notifies your spouse (the “defendant”) that you’ve filed for divorce, and it gives the defendant a deadline for filing a formal response. The summons and petition must be delivered to, or “served on,” the defendant. In some states, someone other than you must hand deliver them. In other states, they can be mailed.

2. Settlement Agreement
You may have a contested or uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree on all the issues you need to deal with before your divorce can be final. This includes whether to get divorced at all, alimony, child support, child custody, and dividing your property and debts.

In a contested divorce, you disagree about one or more issues. Most couples with contested divorces do eventually reach an agreement, either on their own or with the help of a lawyer or mediator.

Your written agreement about support, custody, and property is known as a settlement agreement. You’ll each sign it, and you’ll file it with the court as part of your divorce case. When your divorce is final, the settlement agreement will be part of the court’s order.

3. Financial Affidavit
A financial affidavit is a sworn document that lists your income, expenses, debts, money, and property. You and your spouse must each file one in almost all divorce cases. A judge uses the information in a financial affidavit to set child and spousal support, award attorneys’ fees, and if necessary divide up property.

It can be hard to find specific advice on how to fill out a financial affidavit. A good rule is to take your time and be as accurate as possible. You may have to defend your affidavit’s numbers in a deposition or in court. You may want help from a friend, an accountant, or a lawyer.

4. Parenting Plan
If you have children, a parenting plan is your guide for handling major decisions as well as everyday life after your divorce. A parenting plan describes when the children will be with each parent. It says who will pay for things like music lessons and college tuition. It covers vacations, medical emergencies, and decisions about education and religion.

Although parenting plans typically follow a standard format, parenting responsibilities may be shared in many ways. Ideally, you and your ex will agree on a plan that makes sense for your family. The parenting plan will be included in the final divorce decree.

Where Can I Get Divorce Forms?

Your county court clerk’s office or website can tell you how to get divorce forms for your state. These forms may include general instructions for how to fill them out. You can also find the appropriate online divorce papers by using a tool that asks questions and prepares your forms for you. Divorce works a little differently in each state. Now that you have some basic information about divorce documents, you can find out what exactly you need to do to end your marriage in the state where you live.

Service of the Petition

Oftentimes, a third party, such as the sheriff’s office, accomplishes legal service of the petition, or complaint. Process service may be handled by the local sheriff’s office or served by an independent process server. If both parties agree, in some cases service of the divorce petition may be handled by mail, if the respondent signs a receipt acknowledging service. Once the divorce petition has been served, the respondent usually has about 30 days to answer the divorce petition. Service of the divorce petition helps establish the date of separation and starts the divorce process. The date the divorce petition was served also marks the start of any waiting periods that may be a requirement for divorce.

Filing an Answer or Appearance

The respondent, or defendant, generally has 30 days to answer or file a response. A failure to respond within the time allowed means that the party is considered in default and may forfeit his or her rights to contest issues such as child custody or property division. When a respondent fails to file a response, the divorce court assumes he or she is in agreement with the divorce petition and grants the petitioner’s requests.

Moving Forward with the Answer

An answer, which is called a response, acknowledges the filing and receipt of the petition, or complaint. In it, the respondent replies to any allegations or requests by the petitioner. The response may be in agreement or in objection to the petitioner’s requests. The answer may also agree with some parts of the divorce petition and disagree with others. If the couple agrees on all issues, the respondent may simply file an answer indicating agreement, which allows the petitioner to go forward with an uncontested divorce. The respondent may want to consult with a lawyer about the response.

An Effective Answer

In the answer, the respondent, or defendant, should clearly agree or disagree with the position on each divorce issue and provide an explanation if necessary. The respondent may also make demands in the answer to the divorce petition. In some states, forms may be provided to simplify answering a divorce petition. These forms often contain a list of issues, so the respondent may check off whether he or she agrees or disagrees with each issue.


In contested divorces, discovery becomes the heart of the action. Discovery permits the spouses to gather detailed information from each other about assets, income, and fitness for child custody, extramarital affairs and any other issue relevant to the divorce. Discovery is normally very expensive because it consumes hours and hours of an attorney’s time. The spouses exchange relevant information as required by the rules of procedure. If a spouse resists turning over relevant information, he or she can be compelled by court order.

Cooling Off

After the divorce petition and answer are filed, some jurisdictions require a waiting period so that the parties may cool off and make certain they want to end their marriage. Divorce waiting periods vary from state to state. In the past, states have considered extending divorce waiting periods, especially for couples with children. Such divorce legislation has been based on observations that shorter divorce waiting periods lead to higher divorce rates.

Divorce Settlement

Courts normally push divorcing spouses to settlement because litigation between spouses antagonizes the parties, harms the children and drives up costs. Couples who can get along well enough to hammer out an agreement find that this approach can dramatically speed up the divorce, minimize the stress on the children, and cuts costs. The decision to settle is always up to the spouses not their lawyers.

Divorce Trial

When divorcing spouses cannot reach an agreement, the court schedules a trial. In a trial, the spouses get to tell their stories, call witnesses, and cross-examine the other spouse’s witnesses. A judge – who has heard it all before, as they say – makes a final decision. After the trial, a final divorce decree is entered resolving all of the issues in the divorce. A losing party can appeal the divorce decree.

Litigation a Course of Last Resort

A divorce trial should be a course of last resort because it is here spouses make war on one another, and when it is over, they will leave the battlefield with lasting hatred of one another.

State Divorce Law

Divorce in the United States is governed by state-specific laws. Normally, divorcing couples file for divorce in the county of the residence. They need not file in the state where they were married. All states honor the marriages and divorces of sister states.

Residency Requirements to File

Normally, a person must be a resident of the state where the divorce is filed. State residency requirements range from 90 days to one year.

Two Types of Divorce

Courts in the United States recognize two types of divorces: absolute divorce, known as divorce a vinculo matrimonii (divorce from the bond of marriage) and limited divorce, known as divorce a menso et thoro (a divorce from table and bed). A divorce a vinculo matrimonii is an absolute divorce, the judicial termination of a marriage that makes both spouses single. A divorce a menso et thoro is a limited divorce typically called a legal separation.

Filing for a Conversion Divorce

Limited divorces result in termination of the right to cohabit but the court refrains from officially dissolving the marriage and the parties’ statuses remain unchanged. The spouses are still married. Some states permit conversion divorce. Conversion divorce transforms a legal separation into a legal divorce after both parties have been separated for a period of time defined by state statute.

Divorce Laws

State law determines whether a state divides and distributes the martial estate under the terms and conditions of equitable distribution or as community property. State law also determines whether property is either marital or separate or whether all property is subject to distribution. Nine states are said to be community property states, which means that the entire marital estate is subject to distribution; 41 are said to be equitable distribution, which means that the marital estate is distributed equitably.

Uncontested Divorce

A divorce proceeding in which there are no disputes does not mean that the parties agree on everything. It means that the spouses have decided to work out their differences themselves rather than have a judge do it for them.

When an Uncontested Action Works

Uncontested actions work well when the parties behave rationally and control their own worst impulses, including greed, revenge and selfishness. Remember, as one veteran lawyer said, “Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, and divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.”

The Advantages of Uncontested Actions

Not only does an uncontested divorce move through the system more quickly, it is much less complicated, does less emotional damage, and costs less than a contested action that goes before a judge who decides for the spouses what they cannot decide for themselves.

Disadvantages of Uncontested Actions

An uncontested divorce does not work in high-conflict marriages where there is domestic violence. An uncontested divorce works best when both parties can openly communicate with each other.

Cost of an Uncontested Action

Uncontested divorces can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,200. The fee may depend on how much time the attorney will have to devote to the case. If there are unresolved issues that must be worked out, the cost could increase.

Pro Se Divorce

An uncontested divorce lends itself to a pro se action, which is a divorce in which each spouse represents himself or herself in court without a lawyer. Pro se divorces work easily to terminate a short-term marriage that is childless, with both spouses working, easily distributed assets and easily settled debts.

One Lawyer – One Client

No matter how agreeable the spouses are, each party must have his or her own lawyer. Legal ethics require that a single lawyer cannot represent both parties. The lawyer must represent one or the other spouse, and he or she needs to know this at the outset.

Forms of Uncontested Actions

An uncontested action can happen summarily, by default (where one spouse files and the other does not respond), through mediation (where the couple use a trained mediator), or by collaboration (where the couple actively cooperate with each other and lawyers are negotiators). The case can move on, and the time between filing and the judgment of divorce varies by jurisdiction from a few weeks to a few months.

Pro Se Filing

Pro se divorce litigation means that the petitioner, or plaintiff, represents himself or herself in a divorce without an attorney. The procedures are the same for a pro se litigator except that he or she is responsible for filling out and filing all the legal forms. People file pro se because they can’t afford to hire an attorney, or they agree with their spouse about all divorce issues and can file uncontested, or they become dissatisfied with their attorneys and feel they could do a better job on their own.

Off to the Law Library

Anyone who wants to do his or her own divorce should make a stop at the law library. Divorce law is state specific, and practices vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In a divorce, the only dumb question is the one that went unasked.

Keeping Emotions in Check

Anyone who cannot separate the emotional strum und drang of divorce from the cool legalism of it should not attempt to do his or her own divorce. Pro se divorce is not for settling the score.

Pro Se is Less Costly

Without a doubt, one of the biggest draws about filing pro se is cost. A simple uncontested divorce with legal representation costs $1,500 to $2,000. By comparison, a pro se divorce can be had for under $300, plus court costs and filing fees.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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What If My Spouse Evades Service Of Divorce Papers?

divorce papers utah
What If My Spouse Evades Service Of Divorce Papers?

When a marriage hits the buffers, ideally both husband and wife will agree to get divorced. However, many divorces are contested by one party which makes the whole process more difficult and leads to protracted negotiations.
What can make things even trickier is if one spouse refuses to engage at all and ignores the divorce papers. So what can be done in this scenario?

Depending on intentional or accidental dodging of divorce papers serviced to the other spouse, the person wanting to legally end the relationship may have options based on the state of residence. Some of these options involve using the mail service or having an official person track down the other spouse and serve the papers in front of witnesses.

The process of divorce can be complicated even in the best of circumstances, but becomes more difficult when a spouse doesn’t respond to a divorce petition. An attorney can help those who are served to respond in an appropriate way to protect their legal interests and can assist those who are filing for divorce with a non-responsive spouse
What are my options if my ex does not acknowledge the divorce papers?

One of the first major steps in getting a divorce is for one divorcing party to complete a matrimonial order (formerly called a divorce petition) which essentially comprises the divorce application to the court. Once the application has been submitted and approved, the court will send a copy to the other spouse along with an ‘acknowledgment of service’ form.

They must respond to this form within 8 days – either agreeing with the divorce or contesting it (or objecting to any costs). Once this has been done, the divorce can proceed to the next stage which is the application for decree nisi. But sometimes the other party fails to respond to the acknowledgment of service form. This may be due to an oversight or change of address – so as a first step it is worth contacting them informally to ask if they have received it Okay.

Serving Divorce Papers – Legal Options if Your Spouse Is Dodging Acceptance of Service

The Misconception

Many spouses in the United States believe that they can dodge the paperwork and not need to worry about going through a divorce. However, even if not served, the other spouse can move forward with the process of either divorce or to start the legal separation. The individual that seeks the divorce can use publication such as a newspaper to start the process when there is no other option to contact or serve the papers to begin. In this last resort, the spouse has the option to keep the publication going for two weeks in standard divorces.

Postal Address

If the first attempt to have the divorce petition papers fails, the spouse can send the documents in the post office mail to a P.O. Box or directly through the mail such as a certified letter. Reasonable measures are necessary first before seeking publication. However, this can lead to nearly anyone serving the paperwork to the other spouse to start the divorce process. This can even include anyone over eighteen that qualifies. If that fails, the individual can hire a private detective to help with this situation and ensure that the other spouse takes the papers at some point.

Using a Third Party

If the other spouse is dodging service papers, the one seeking the divorce may need to become creative. This may lead to hiring a third party to serve the papers as a person involved in his or her life at least momentarily such as a co-worker or someone the individual sees daily. With a third party, papers served will usually occur with several witnesses that require a receipt of the served documentation. If this does not work, the spouse has other options that may become necessary to include the last resort of using a publication to provide notice of the divorce.

Hiring a Private Detective

If the other spouse is unable to find the husband or wife, it is often possible to hire a private detective to accomplish this and ensure he or she receives the papers for the divorce. Then, there is also verifiable evidence of the served documentation. This can cut out the need to publicize the notice of divorce and also give the person the needed photographic or video evidence to the judge presiding over the case. This can cut out any other last resort methods and cut down the time involved in the last procedure in serving the notice.

Satisfying the Court

It is important to satisfy the judge to ensure that the process of divorce proceeds properly. This court authority will want to know what notice was given about the case to progress to the next step. He or she will usually provide a default judgment in these situations when the other party does not respond or attend the case. The petition of the divorce is often then granted as is without any changes because the other spouse does not counter it or arrive in the courtroom to refute the action with this party.

The Attorney in the Divorce Stages

The attorney is necessary from all levels of the divorce case. He or she can explain what stage to go to next, what to do and how to proceed with the petition and the judge. He or she will present the case and explain the details of the goals that the spouse wants to accomplish. The lawyer can also help with finding other professionals for hire with these processes.

Spouse Won’t Accept Divorce Papers?

When your partner does not sign divorce papers, what happens next will depend on the details of your situation – and, more specifically, whether your partner can be located and/or whether your partner contests the divorce.

Serving Divorce Papers

One of the initial steps of a divorce is serving a Complaint for Divorce, also called divorce papers. The complaint initiates the divorce by explaining who the parties are, asking for property, asking for support, and requesting other relief. The complaint is the paper declaring to the other person they are being sued. In all legal sense you are suing your spouse for a divorce.

Along with a complaint, most divorce papers consist of a summons, and joint preliminary injunction. The summons is the legal paper signed by the court noticing the defendant there are being sued and have 20 days to respond. The Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI), explains you cannot incur community debts or dispose of community assets without the permission of the court.

Your spouse will only have 20 days from the date received to respond to the filed divorce papers. To ensure the papers were properly received, the court will not allow you to simply hand the documents to your spouse. Imagine how many people would say the papers were served when in fact, they weren’t. To keep everyone honest, the divorce papers need to be served according to Rules of Civil Procedure (RCP).

Hiring a Process Server

RCP requires the divorce papers to be served by an independent person over the age of 18. Law firms hire process servers to handle this task. Process servers are people who serve court papers as a course of business. You may also use a constable, but they are more expensive and typically take longer. Normally, the process server will serve the divorce papers to your spouse’s last known legal residence, or in person to your spouse whenever possible.
The process server does not need to have anything signed. They simply need to leave copies of the papers at the residence with someone of suitable age. The process server then completes a form declaring they served the documents. This is all the court needs to consider service completed and to start the 20 day deadline.
In some cases, the spouse attempts to avoid service or is impossible to locate. Maybe you have been separated for several years and didn’t keep tabs on each other. In this situation, you need to ask the process server for their “due diligence”. This means they will make every attempt possible to serve your spouse. They will contact their job, talk with co-workers, talk with neighbors, call family members, run online searches, check with the department of motor vehicles, and even send emails or text messages.

If the process server attempts all methods of service, and documents these steps then a divorce lawyer can ask the court for your spouse to be served by publication.

Serving Divorce Papers When a Spouse Cannot Be Located

In some cases, divorce papers won’t be signed because a partner moves and cannot be tracked down. When this occurs (and when reasonable efforts to track down the person are unsuccessful), a request can be made to a family court judge to publish the Summons in an effort to notify the Defendant (i.e., the spouse who cannot be located) about the impending divorce action.

This publication can occur in any “newspaper of general circulation,” and the notice must be published at least once a week for a minimum of four weeks.

You will need to run a notice of intent to divorce in a newspaper located in the city of the last known address of your spouse. There is a typical newspaper in almost every metro city. You will need to run this notice for about a month. The newspaper will send you a notarized statement after the publication. This notarized statement is filed with the court to satisfy the service of papers. With this, the timer for your spouse to respond to the divorce papers will start.

Next, one of two things can happen. The first is your spouse responds by filing an answer. If this happens, then the standard divorce process unfolds.

The second, is your spouse doesn’t respond within 20 days. If after the 20 days your spouse has not responded you may request the court to issue a “Default.” A Default means that the spouse does not object to the request for a divorce, nor do they object to the terms you have requested. A default divorce is not absolute victory, because your spouse has six months to ask the court to set-aside the default. But, a default is a strong position to be in. Setting aside a default is not always easy.

When a Spouse Can Be Located

If a spouse can be located and (s)he refuses to sign the divorce papers, then:

That spouse will have to be served with a Complaint for Divorce, which will provide 21 days for that spouse to respond to the complaint (these are consecutive calendar days, not business days).
If the spouse responds (i.e., “answers” the complaint or files a counterclaim), the divorce will be a contested matter.

The court will then usually schedule a case management conference to give divorcing parties the opportunity to try to resolve the issues of their divorce without a trial.

If the case management conference cannot resolve the issues of the divorce, a trial will be scheduled for the case.
Sometimes, one spouse will avoid service of the divorce papers under the misconception that if they never get served, the other spouse cannot move forward with the divorce or legal separation. This myth is common. However, the court is empowered to allow the petitioner to effect service by publication when the court is satisfied that the respondent cannot be served with reasonable diligence personally or by mail.

If you know your spouse’s post office address and that his or her mail was being picked up from that box, then failure to attempt service by mail will prevent the court from allowing service by publication. The court will require proof that the respondent cannot reasonably be served personally or by mail and may require that a search of databases (such as voter registration rolls) be conducted. A search of databases often requires the assistance of a private investigator.

Should the court be satisfied that the respondent cannot be served by mail or in person, the court will order the summons to be published in a named California newspaper or, if the party resides out-of-state, in a named newspaper elsewhere. The summons is published once a week for four consecutive weeks and service is considered complete on the last day of publication.

Once service has been completed, the respondent will be deemed served. If the respondent spouse fails to respond within the 30-day requisite period, then the petitioner spouse can proceed with the divorce without the respondent’s input.

What If A Spouse Doesn’t Respond To A Divorce Petition

When a person files for divorce, the other spouse is served with the court papers by a qualified process server. The spouse who receives the divorce papers has a limited period of time in which to respond to the petition for divorce. The responding spouse must provide an answer to the court, providing required information and appropriate legal paperwork.

If one spouse doesn’t respond to a divorce petition, this does not mean that the dissolution of marriage will not go forward. However, a failure by the served spouse to respond to the paperwork can slow down the divorce process, make it more complicated to end the marriage, and leave the non-responding spouse without a say in how marital assets and custody are divided. Failing to respond to a divorce petition is a big mistake and everyone who receives papers from a process server should be sure to respond appropriately and on-time.

What Happens When A Spouse Doesn’t Respond To A Divorce Petition

In some cases, one of the two spouses will try to be non-responsive in order to slow down the process of ending the marriage. For example, a husband or a wife who does not want the divorce to go through may be late in submitting paperwork or requested documents to the court. This delay tactics can lead to legal consequences. It may be possible for the spouse who is willfully late in responding to be held in contempt of court.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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What Happens If I Do Not Sign The Divorce Papers?

What Happens If I Do Not Sign The Divorce Papers?

Even when it’s clear that a marriage is headed for divorce, one spouse might not be ready to take that final, legal step. Some spouses deal with their resistance—or anger—by avoiding or refusing to sign divorce papers. While those maneuvers might complicate the process, they won’t necessarily stop the divorce. Depending on the circumstances (and the rules in your state), you can usually get a final divorce even when your spouse won’t cooperate.

Do Both Spouses Have to Agree to Divorce?

If you want to end your marriage but your spouse doesn’t, you should still be able to get a divorce. States have procedures for dealing with spouses who hide out to avoid being served with the divorce petition, or simply won’t respond to the petition. But what if your spouse tries to frustrate your divorce efforts by refusing to agree to one of the “no-fault” reasons (or grounds) for divorce allowed where you live? In some states, the divorce process could be more complicated or simply time consuming when this happens. In some states, for instance, if your spouse denies that the two of you are incompatible, you will either have to prove one of the “fault” divorce grounds or be separated for a full year before you can get divorced.

Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse Knowing?

Judges try to prevent one-sided divorce proceedings. This means you can’t go behind your spouse’s back to get a secret divorce. You must give your spouse notice of any divorce paperwork that you’ve filed with the court (as discussed below), so that your spouse at least has a chance to respond.

Can You Get Divorced If You Can’t Find Your Spouse?

When you file the initial divorce petition (sometimes called a complaint), you generally must arrange to have the petition and other paperwork delivered to your spouse through what’s known as “service of process.” But if you can’t locate your spouse, you may ask the court for permission to use another method for giving notice that you’ve filed for divorce. You’ll generally need to show that you made several serious attempts to find your spouse and serve the papers. A judge will decide whether to grant your request and which form of alternative service to allow—usually service by publication (publishing a notice in a newspaper).

When Can You Get a Default Divorce?

If you’ve served a divorce petition on your spouse (either through regular service or an alternative method), but your spouse hasn’t filed a response on time, you may request a default divorce. State and local rules vary. Typically, however, the process will go like this: You’ll file a request to enter a default along with a proposed divorce judgment after your spouse has not responded to the divorce petition within 30 days after service.
The court will set a hearing date and send notice to your spouse (unless there’s no known address where your spouse can be reached). At the hearing, the judge will review the paperwork you’ve filed, might ask you some questions, and will ultimately issue a ruling on your divorce.

The default hearing might be more involved in some states. In Utah, for instance, you must provide evidence at the default hearing to show that what you’ve requested in your divorce petition and proposed judgment—such as the details of the property division would be fair.

You should be aware of the pros and cons of default divorce. For example, most states give the defaulting spouse a certain amount of time to ask the judge to set aside the default judgment. So you could be in for a big headache if your spouse has a change of heart. If you’re considering this option, it would be wise to speak with an experienced divorce attorney first.

Note that some states—like Utah have a separate type of default divorce when your spouse has signed a written divorce settlement agreement but doesn’t file a response to the divorce petition. Unlike a “true” default divorce, the court will treat this type of case like an uncontested divorce.

What to Do If You’re Spouse Won’t Sign the Divorce Papers

Even the most amicable of divorces can be emotionally trying and tiring to navigate. But if your spouse is uncooperative and refuses to sign the divorce papers, it can make things even more difficult and frustrating for you. If you’ve made the decision to get a divorce, you’re probably ready to move ahead with it so that you can focus on getting a fresh start. Having your spouse dig in their heels and refuse to sign the documents might leave you feeling angry, confused, and desperate to move things along. If you’re in this situation, here’s what you need to know about how to proceed.

Why Aren’t They Signing?

First and foremost, it’s important to try to understand the reasons for your spouse refusing to sign. There can be many different motivations for this action. Are they still hoping to work things out and preserve your marriage? In these cases, sitting down and clearly explaining to your spouse that you’re not happy in your marriage any longer may be able to persuade them to sign.

Are they trying to use this refusal as leverage to get you to give up certain assets or custody of your children? Some people think that refusing to sign will give them power over their spouse, making the other party desperate enough that they’ll make sacrifices simply to move the divorce along. If you think this is their motivation, don’t give into their manipulations. Talk to your attorney about how to proceed.

Another common reason we see for a spouse to refuse to sign divorce documents is simply to make things more difficult for their spouse. Divorces can often bring out the worst in people, and a spouse may refuse to sign the paperwork for a while solely to cause trouble. While it’s a somewhat petty action, both spouses usually end up signing the paperwork in the end, as it’s clear that neither of them are happy.

Why do your spouse’s motivations matter? Simply put, knowing the reason behind their refusal to sign helps you to better understand the best way to respond to this action. Whether you need to just sit down and have a talk, wait it out, or draw a hard line with negotiations will be based on what your spouse is hoping to achieve by refusing to sign the paperwork.

Can You Still Get a Divorce?

If your spouse has refused to sign the divorce papers, you might be panicking and wondering if you can still get a divorce or if you’re stuck in the marriage because of their action. The good news is that most states, including Utah, are “no-fault” states; this means you don’t have to prove that one spouse has done something wrong that led to the divorce. Rather, you can simply state that you feel the marriage is unsalvageable and continue to file for divorce.
You and your divorce attorney will simply have to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the courts. This can be done without a spouse’s signature. After filing, the paperwork will be served to your spouse by a process server. Your spouse will then have 20 days to file a response with the court. At this point, it will be in their best interest to finally respond to your filing; if they don’t respond within 20 days, the court will rule it to be an uncontested divorce.

Assuming your spouse does not file a response, a judge will file a default hearing on your uncontested divorce. You must attend and request the divorce in person; the court will then ask you about matters regarding property division and child custody. Assuming your spouse has still refused to show, the court will generally grant the reasonable requests of whichever spouse has appeared at the default hearing. However, you should still speak to an attorney about these matters.

Possible Complications

So, if you can file a petition to end your marriage without your spouse’s signature, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why bother trying to get your spouse to sign documents at all? The simple truth of it is that proceeding with a divorce is always easier when both parties are able to cooperate with one another. If your spouse is refusing to sign the paperwork they’ve been served, then odds are that they’re not going to be very cooperative in negotiating important facets of your divorce, such as division of assets, spousal support, and child custody issues. This can lead to a host of complications after you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, so it’s incredibly important you have a skilled divorce attorney on your side.

Generally, if the other spouse refuses to sign the initial divorce papers, the person seeking the process can still file the divorce and proceed with the initial petition which does not require signatures from both parties. The case can start without the consent of each spouse no matter which person wants to halt it or cause problems.

Push Forward with the Divorce Process

Generally, the divorce papers do not need signatures from both parties to move forward. There is little need to ensure that the other spouse is in agreement to end the marriage legally. However, if both spouses are amenable to the process, it can permit both to progress through the divorce amicably. The initial petition is something that both spouses can review and make changes to or challenge to ensure that the judge will listen and understand what each person is wanting out of the divorce process such as marital property, child custody or visitation or what assets are to remain separate and not community property.

Legally Serving the Documents

When the other spouse refuses to sign the initial petition for the divorce, the person seeking the process will need to legally serve him or her the documents. Serving the papers can occur with anyone that is over the age of eighteen, but it often needs to happen through the Sheriff’s Office or with someone that is a licensed process server to ensure proper due process. If the other spouse is actively attempting to avoid the case by hiding or taking refuge in an unknown location, the other party can use the standard mail system. If nothing else works, the spouse seeking the divorce can use the public paper to publish a notice through permission of the court in the local area.
Using the Court

If the other spouse continues to remain combative, the process may proceed through the courts and with the judge. A failure to cooperate can still affect the case, but it may harm the other spouse instead. The court is still able to move the proceedings forward. If the other spouse decides not to attend the court for the case or even to respond to the divorce petition, the judge can enter a default judgment that will grant the divorce to the spouse seeking the process. In these situations, the judge may grant most of the requested relief, and the absent spouse has no right to contest this decision unless there is a valid reason for the absence and failure to respond.

Failure to Respond

The other spouse may fail to respond to the petition or the case, but he or she may file the respond and fail to participate. Any refusal to respond or cooperate with mandatory processes can lead to complications or even a negative outcome. The judge can issue penalties against the spouse and even hold him or her for contempt for his or her actions. This can continue until the person complies with any necessary actions or activity such as attending mediation or arbitration before the standard court case or litigation.

Final Divorce Documents

For any uncooperative behavior that continues, the court usually must progress through the case and determine if any issues remain outstanding and how to resolve them. The court will hold a trial in this event. Unlike the standard case where both parties work out the issues, the judge will decide all matters through state law and any guidelines that apply to the situation. This can support the spouse seeking the divorce, but there are some matters that may still provide something to the other spouse such as marital property and the division of assets.

Quicker Divorce Processes

When both parties are cooperative and willing to proceed through the divorce, the processes are generally faster and quicker to resolve. However, the divorce itself will usually still proceed forward even without the cooperation and assistance of the other spouse. When there is a hint or the possibility that the other party will remain in conflict and not want to sign papers or collaborate in any manner, it is important to contact an attorney to help with the divorce and any other processes.

Legal Support for Spouses that Refuse to Cooperate

In the divorce, the spouse may need a lawyer to file the petition and to proceed appropriately. This lawyer can also help if the other spouse is refusing to assist or cooperate to reach a beneficial outcome of the divorce.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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Utah Divorce Strategy

Divorce is оnе оf the mоѕt trаumаtiс еvеntѕ in thе еmоtiоnаl lives оf mаnу реорlе. Pеорlе whо find themselves in a divоrсе situation often fееl bеlittlеd, bеtrауеd, ѕhосkеd, infеriоr, dерrеѕѕеd, оr infuriаtеd. However, it is vеrу unwiѕе to соmроund thе problem by trуing tо ѕhое horn a relationship into working whеn it iѕ bеуоnd hоре, аlthоugh аt first еvеrу роѕѕiblе ѕоlutiоn is, hopefully, discussed and considered by both. If you are here, you need a strategy in your divorce.

utah divorce strategy

It is еѕресiаllу important nоt tо fоrсе yourself tо try tо mаkе a fаilеd mаrriаgе wоrk “for the сhildrеn”. Rеlаtiоnѕhiрѕ еnd for reasons–usually that they wеrеn’t thе bеѕt оnеѕ to start with, although it’ѕ аlѕо truе that people саn grow apart оr оnе оf them саn juѕt сhаngе ѕо utterly thаt thеу aren’t whо thе оthеr mаrriеd any lоngеr–аnd the bеѕt thing tо do fоr thе children in a divоrсе ѕituаtiоn is tо wоrk it out in as muсh of a civilized way as iѕ роѕѕiblе аnd bе hоnеѕt аnd rаtiоnаl with thе children.

Don’t Be vindictive in Divorce

Unfortunately, many divоrсеѕ are mаdе far wоrѕе bу оnе party bеing either vindiсtivе оr hоѕtilе; аnd еvеn in a divоrсе whеrе that iѕ not thе саѕе, thе firѕt thing (роѕѕiblу аftеr <сhild сuѕtоdу) thаt iѕ gоing to bе thе target оf interest iѕ the money аnd thе аѕѕеtѕ. In a wау, a mаrriаgе iѕ a business dеаl, and thiѕ business iѕ nоw being brоkеn uр. Sо you need tо undеrѕtаnd hоw tо nаvigаtе thеѕе роѕѕiblу hоѕtilе waters аnd соmе оut alright. For this уоu'll nееd a ѕtrаtеgу, аnd уоu'll also need tactics. Neither is rоmаntiс, but both аrе nесеѕѕаrу.

The Best Divorce Strategy

Yоur ѕtrаtеgу is what you want tо асhiеvе. For instance, аrе you truly intеrеѕtеd in tаking thе hоuѕе, оr dо you just want tо gеt еnоugh of thе home’s еԛuitу in уоur ѕеttlеmеnt ѕо уоu can mаkе it оn your own whilе уоu go through transition? Whatever your strategy is, however, уоu nееd tо understand that it is nо good аt аll tо let уоurѕеlf bе mаdе intо a sacrificial lamb. Yоu mау think you’re bеing niсе, but that’s nоt what a divоrсе is about. It’ѕ аbоut fairness аnd juѕtiсе, аnd thеrе isn’t gоing to bе muсh of that unless уоur ѕtrаtеgу iѕ tо gеt аll that уоu trulу fееl iѕ уоurѕ bу right.

What Is Your Goal in Divorce?

Your tасtiсѕ аrе thе moves уоu аrе gоing tо utilizе and play out in оrdеr tо realize your ѕtrаtеgiс gоаl. Hаving grеаt tactics iѕ likе having a great сhеѕѕ game: thеу ѕеt уоu up to win, аnd they are intended tо blосk or соuntеrасt any unjuѕt оr unfаir mоvеѕ mаdе bу уоur еx-ѕроuѕе-tо-bе. Thеу hаvе tо be wеll calculated; tасtiсѕ аrе nо рlасе fоr overly еmоtiоnаl rеасtiоnѕ, as thаt leaves уоu vulnеrаblе. In thе divоrсе ѕituаtiоn, stresses саn mаkе a nоrmаllу kind реrѕоn intо a vicious enemy who wаntѕ tо tаkе аll that уоu fееl bеlоngѕ to you. Yоu must never back down from уоu tасtiсѕ unlеѕѕ thеу аrеn’t working.

If уоur divоrсе iѕ соntеѕtеd–mеаning at lеаѕt оnе оf уоu dоеѕn’t wаnt to ассерt it оr doesn’t wаnt to agree on a fair ѕеttlеmеnt–bе prepared fоr it tо take twо уеаrѕ оr mоrе to hаvе thе рареrѕ signed. Dо nоt ѕеt your hеаrt оn a specific timе frаmе оr dаtе fоr finаl ѕеttlеmеnt.

Make ѕurе уоu соnѕult with the lawyers from Ascent Law оn аll оf your tасtiсѕ and your divоrсе strategy. Again, whilе nоt rоmаntiс, we can help you create a divorce strategy that will work for you. We аrе usually a very important раrt of thе successful divоrсе process in Utah.

Divorce Strategy Conclusion

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call the divorce lawyers at Ascent Law: (801) 676-5506. We focus in divorce and family law cases.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 876-5875

Ascent Law LLC

4.7 stars – based on 45 reviews

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