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What to Do When Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

by | Feb 4, 2020 | divorce, divorce lawyer long island ny, News and Events

If you’ve decided to get a divorce, your spouse has the option to refuse to sign the divorce papers when served. If they’re completely missing in action, this may work in your favor. However, things can become significantly more complicated if your spouse’s refusal to sign leads to a contested divorce. Here’s what you can do if your ex isn’t cooperating.

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Hire a Professional Process Server

A professional process server is an individual who files court papers, retrieves documents, and serves legal notices. Their primary responsibility is to locate people who are involved in court cases, usually defendants, and serve them with a complaint.

Police officers have little time to serve legal documents, meaning that these matters often get shuffled to the back burner when a more urgent matter comes along. A process server can dedicate more time and effort to locating your spouse and determining the best way to serve the complaint. They can provide irrefutable proof of service, strengthening your case for the next step if your spouse still does not sign the papers.

File an Affidavit of Attempted Service

If your spouse cannot be located to be served, you’ll need to file an Affidavit of Attempted Service.

This affidavit allows you to inform the court of your spouse’s attempt to dodge service and requests that the court move forward with the divorce proceedings. Typically, a judge will authorize another form of service after sufficient proof of attempted service has been provided, such as publishing a public notice in the newspaper. At this point, the divorce can proceed, even without your spouse’s signature.

Request a Judgment by Default

When your spouse has been legally served, New York law allows them 20 days to respond. If they do not, you must wait 40 more days until you can request a Judgment by Default. If your spouse hasn’t filed an answer to your complaint, it’s likely that the court will grant you whatever terms you requested since your spouse has not objected after all efforts were made to make them aware of the matter at hand.

Often, a Judgment by Default can only take place when your spouse is truly nowhere to be found. If at any point your spouse contests your divorce — even at the last minute — a default judgment is highly unlikely to be granted.

Litigate Your Divorce

If your ex does eventually respond to the complaint and contests the divorce or any issue within it, you’ll need to pursue divorce mediation, arbitration, or litigation. Mediation is often preferable to litigation in terms of time and cost, however, it’s not uncommon for exes who initially refuse to sign the complaint to contest one or more matters within the divorce simply to be difficult.

A contested divorce can involve matters of child custody, child support, alimony, property and debt division, and more. If you filed for a no-fault divorce, your spouse cannot contest the grounds for divorce itself, but they can contest any of the above legal matters, making your divorce exponentially more time-consuming, costly, and emotionally exhausting.

Work with an Experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney

The importance of working with an experienced Long Island family lawyer cannot be understated when one spouse ignores the service of a divorce complaint or refuses to sign. While smooth sailing is a possibility if your ex makes absolutely no effort to respond or object to the complaint, the opposite could occur. Your spouse may eventually sign the papers and contest the terms of your divorce, launching you into an expensive and difficult divorce that requires experienced legal representation.

Navigating the New York family legal system is difficult enough when spouses cooperate. When they don’t, the financial and emotional impact can be challenging for everyone involved, including children. An experienced attorney can help you follow the above steps to pursue the dissolution of your marriage, even if your spouse refuses to cooperate.

Call Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. for a Complimentary Consultation

If you’re considering filing for divorce or have served your spouse with divorce papers and they refuse to sign, don’t wait to reach out for legal help. Contact Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today to schedule your complimentary divorce consultation at 631-923-1910.



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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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