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Can You Divorce Without Spouse’s Consent on Long Island?

by | Oct 8, 2019 | divorce, divorce lawyer long island ny

Usually, both spouses are present during a divorce on Long Island. They negotiate property division, spousal maintenance, child custody, and other pertinent matters, and when the papers are signed by both parties, the divorce becomes final.

However, not all divorces involve both spouses. In some cases, one spouse may be absent, leaving the other to manage the entirety of the divorce alone. But how does one get a divorce when the other spouse can’t, or won’t, participate? New York state law has a few provisions that allow one spouse to divorce the other, even if they’re not present.

Here are two situations where you may be dealing with divorcing without your spouse:

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Spousal Abandonment

If your spouse has left you and you want to get a divorce, you may be able to do so even if you can’t locate them. However, New York state law, which governs divorce on Long Island, requires that every reasonable effort be made to locate your spouse using a variety of available tools.

Finding Your Spouse

Your spouse must be served with divorce papers unless impracticability can be established. This means that even though you don’t know where your spouse is, to proceed with a divorce, you’re going to need to make a substantial effort to find them. This can include making contact on social media accounts, calling or texting known telephone numbers, and visiting last known addresses and employers.

Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers

If you’re able to locate your spouse, they will need to be served with divorce papers. This is usually done in person, but it can be mailed or given to another person of legal age and understanding at their residence or where they’ve been staying.


If you aren’t able to locate your spouse to have them served with divorce papers, the court may establish Impracticability. Essentially, this means that reasonable attempts to locate and serve your spouse with divorce papers were unsuccessful and continuing to attempt to do so via other methods would be impractical. At this point, you can proceed with the divorce even if your spouse has not been located.

You can read more about how to get a divorce on Long Island when your spouse abandons you here.

Refusal to Sign Papers

In some cases, the spouse who was served with divorce papers will refuse to sign them. They may contest the reason for the divorce, or they may simply not want to get a divorce. You can’t force your spouse to sign, but there are steps you can take under New York law that may allow you to move forward even if your spouse doesn’t sign on the dotted line.

Proving Your Spouse Was Served

If your spouse won’t sign the divorce papers, the only way to move forward with your divorce is to prove that your spouse did, in fact, receive the papers appropriately. Certified mail requires a signature, which can offer proof of receipt if the signature is your spouse’s or someone else of legal age and understanding who lives with them. If your spouse was served in person, this is even easier to prove. If your spouse later decides to contest the divorce and suggest that they were never served, it’s important that you’re able to show that efforts were made and your spouse should have reasonably been able to review the papers.

You can read more about what happens if your spouse refuses to sign your divorce papers here.

What Happens If You Divorce Without Your Spouse’s Consent?

If the court establishes Impracticability or allows you to pursue your divorce without your spouse’s consent, you’ll likely receive a default judgment against your spouse. You may also be awarded what you asked for in your original petition, including property, custody, and other requests, since your spouse is not present to contest them.

When You Need to Hire a Long Island Divorce Attorney

Don’t wait to get legal help if your spouse has abandoned you or won’t sign your divorce papers. It’s critical to work with an experienced Long Island divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights and best interests are protected throughout your divorce. Contact us today to learn more about getting a divorce without your spouse’s consent. Call 631-923-1910 to schedule your free consultation.

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At your meeting, your attorney will describe the many options available and determine together which is the right solution for you. By the end of this meeting we’ll all understand how we can best help you to move forward.

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