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What Happens When Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers in Glencoe, IL?

March 29, 2024
If your spouse won't sign divorce papers, you can still proceed with a divorce in Glencoe, IL. For instance, you could file a petition for the dissolution of your marriage. Your spouse then gets served with the papers and has about 30 days to respond. In the absence of a response, you can file a motion for a default judgment. It is not common for a spouse to accept the terms of a default judgment, though, and your divorce may turn contested at this point. Alternatively, you could try an approach such as mediation with a spouse who is reluctant to sign.
Upset young woman talking to a lawyer, with her husband aside. Spouse won't sign divorce papers.

The Divorce Process in Illinois

An Illinois divorce can be contested or uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses may work out the issues before filing formally, although they can conduct negotiations after one spouse has filed.

Generally, one spouse (the petitioner) files for the dissolution of the marriage. The filing has to be in a county where one of the spouses lives. The other spouse (the respondent) has about 30 days to respond. If the divorce is shaping up as contested, both of the parties may go through processes such as discovery. In discovery, they share financial information for asset and liability division.

The spouses may avoid a court battle through negotiations, mediation, a collaborative divorce, or other approaches. Otherwise, a judge has the job of deciding the issues the spouses cannot resolve. After hearing evidence, the judge makes a decision on these issues, commonly child custody, spousal support, and asset division.

However, wrinkles can occur when one of the spouses won’t sign divorce papers. Can you force a divorce? You have several legal options, such as a default judgment.

Reasons a Spouse May Refuse to Sign Divorce Papers

There can be many reasons a spouse in Glencoe, IL, won’t sign divorce papers. Here are a few.

  • Control or manipulation. For instance, one spouse may hope to get better terms, such as sole child custody, by refusing to sign.
  • Surprise. The spouse may feel blindsided by the divorce and need time to process the issues involved.
  • Reluctance. One spouse may not be ready to accept the end of the marriage. This spouse may hope that things might change for the better if he or she can postpone the proceedings.
  • Anger. Refusal to sign can stem from one spouse’s anger at the other. Similarly, a spouse may hope to get revenge by making the process as complicated or drawn-out as possible.
  • Religious or practical beliefs. Sometimes, a spouse won’t sign divorce papers due to religious or cultural beliefs or practical concerns, such as a fear of losing health insurance that is necessary for severe medical issues. In these cases, a legal separation might be satisfactory.
  • Ignorance of legal implications. Spouses might not sign because they do not realize a court can issue a default judgment against them and that petitioners could get everything for which they asked. In these cases, the respondent spouses would then have to accept the judgment or contest or appeal it in some way.

There is no doubt that divorce marks a major life change, and change is difficult for some people. If you can communicate with your spouse about why he or she won’t sign, it may help you both find a resolution.

Concerns About Alimony or Property Division

Worries about alimony or property division are reasons some spouses won’t sign divorce papers. Perhaps they feel rushed or pressured to sign. Maybe they had no idea a divorce was coming, and now they feel immense strain to agree to alimony or property division terms the other spouse set. Conversely, a spouse may have “known” a divorce filing was coming, but knowing it and actually having to deal with the reality of it are different matters.

The proposed terms in divorce filings may be fair or unfair, but it can be hard to tell under pressure. Both parties deserve enough time to talk with a divorce lawyer and discuss the implications of the various points in the divorce paperwork.

Spouses may worry that the proposed alimony amounts or the proposed property division leave them in an unfair place financially. They might be unsure about how they will support themselves after the divorce. If a spouse has health issues, disabilities, or is nearing retirement age (or is already retired), these matters could increase the amount of spousal support. The longer a marriage lasted, the more spousal support one spouse might be able to get, too.

Spouses might think that the other spouse is trying to shortchange them or hide assets. They may believe that the spouse has more financial resources than he or she actually has. A lack of trust can contribute to this issue.

If the family home is an asset one spouse might lose in asset division, the spouse might be hesitant to sign papers. For example, many people have emotional attachments to homes and need time to come to terms with these losses before signing papers.

Legal Options for Dealing With a Spouse Who Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers in Glencoe, IL

A divorce can still go through when a spouse won’t sign divorce papers. The split can usually become finalized through negotiation or mediation or a default judgment (which may lead to a contested divorce).

Negotiation or Mediation

Mediation and negotiation can often give spouses the reassurance and peace of mind they need to sign divorce papers. The spouse can feel involved and engaged in the process, rather than being asked to simply accept all the terms the petitioner set out in his or her filing. This approach lets spouses work with third parties to customize solutions that work well for their unique circumstances.

Mediation may not be appropriate in cases of power imbalances or abuse, though. Both spouses need to be confident that they are participating in good faith.

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

If a spouse refuses to negotiate or communicate and won’t sign divorce papers, you can file the formal divorce paperwork: a petition for dissolution of marriage. Your spouse has about 30 days to respond after being served.

Strategies for Moving Forward With Your Attorney

Each situation is unique. Your attorney can talk you through the possible outcomes for various scenarios. If necessary, you can force a divorce.

What Is a Default Judgment in a Divorce?

If no response to the divorce filing occurs and your spouse does not show up to the divorce hearing, the judge is likely to issue a default judgment. It may give you what you asked for in the divorce petition on issues such as child custody, spousal support, and asset division. Judges will reject unreasonable or unfair requests, though.

Many respondents do not accept default judgments and decide to contest the divorce at this point. For example, your spouse might file a motion to set aside the default judgment.

What happens next could be a drawn-out contested divorce. Fortunately, it is still possible to engage in negotiation or mediation even after a default judgment. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on terms, the court should approve the agreement as long as it seems fair. Since you and your spouse are dealing with contesting or modifying judgment terms, though, the assistance of lawyers can be helpful.

If your spouse does accept the default judgment (does not contest it), the rest of the process should go smoothly. The divorce becomes finalized in due time. The specific time frame depends on matters such as the waiting period (which can be two months from the date of filing for an uncontested divorce and six months from the date of filing for a contested divorce) and how heavy the court’s caseload is. Your attorney can give you advice specific to your situation.

Can Custody Matters Be Decided by the Court?

The court can still decide custody issues when a spouse won’t sign divorce papers. The process does become more complicated when one spouse is not cooperating in the divorce, but judges still prioritize the best interests of the child. A judge may order hearings and evaluations to determine custody arrangements in Glencoe, IL.

Factors that a judge considers include the parents’ living situations, the child’s relationship with both parents, the stability both parents can offer, the child’s overall health and well-being, and who has been responsible for caregiving.

If a parent still will not go to child custody hearings or participate in evaluations, that parent risks not getting custody. In a default judgment, for example, the court may rule in favor of the petitioner parent, basing decisions only on the information that parent provided.

Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association
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Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association