What Do I Do If My Spouse Refuses to Get Divorced? Part 1

My Spouse Refuses to Be Served With Divorce Papers

Most spouses, even those who don’t want to get divorced, ultimately accept the fact that their spouse wants a divorce and they grudgingly participate in the divorce process

But some spouses fight the divorce every step of the way. They avoid getting served with divorce papers. They refuse to file an answer to the divorce petition. They may refuse to file a counterclaim to tell the divorce judge what they want. 

They refuse, refuse, refuse. 

Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for their spouse, the real world moves on. One spouse cannot stop a divorce from happening. The most they can do with their refusal and denial is delay the process and hurt themselves.   

My Spouse Won’t Be Served Divorce Papers

The divorce process begins when one spouse files notice with the court, and the court clerk prepares papers to be “served” (delivered) to the other spouse. The person who delivers those papers is called a process server. 

Those papers include an original petition for divorce, a notice of hearing for temporary orders, and a citation. 

  • The original petition identifies the parties to the divorce and any allegations involved in the divorce. 
  • The notice of hearing and temporary orders provides a hearing date and a request to the court about how the petitioner would like various living conditions to be handled while the divorce is in process. For example, it will propose who lives in the home, who pays bills, where the children will live. 
  • The citation document goes back to the family court as proof that the receiving spouse took possession of the paperwork at a specific date and time. 

The process server will go to the last known address of the party being served, or to any other location where they believe the person may be located. They must hand the document to the person. If the spouse refuses to open the door, or changes their residence and hides out, or otherwise makes it impossible to be served with papers, there are other legal options. 

Substitute Methods of Service

The process server will document every effort that has been made to serve the divorce papers and will report those attempts to the divorce lawyer handling the case. An Affidavit of Due Diligence will be prepared by the lawyer, documenting all of the efforts made to deliver the divorce petition. It will be signed by the process server and presented to the family court judge. 

The spouse seeking a divorce can then go to court to request a substitute method of service. The judge can approve a number of options:

  • A copy of the divorce petition can be left at the door of the refusing spouse’s residence if there is a strong belief that he or she is actually residing there. It could be left in the mailbox, or with a roommate. 
  • If there is no known location for delivery, the judge may allow a divorce petition to be announced in a local newspaper or posted on the bulletin board outside the courthouse. 

It doesn’t matter if the refusing spouse does not see the petition and has no knowledge of the details of the suit for divorce. Once the court accepts that the petition has been properly served in the manner that was approved by the court, then the rest of the divorce process can proceed. 

My Spouse is Stationed Overseas in the Military

Military members are protected from dealing with legal proceedings while they are deployed under a law known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. 

It can be difficult to serve a military member with divorce papers, depending on their overseas location and their mission. When they are served with divorce papers, the military member can request a 90-day extension to respond to the petition (rather than the standard 10 days). Once they do respond, the proceedings cannot begin until they are present so if they are stationed overseas, it will have to wait until their return to the states. A military divorce could take months to begin. 

A Fort Worth Divorce Lawyer Helping Clients Deal with Difficult Spouses

You WILL be able to move forward with your life, even if your spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process. He or she cannot stop the divorce forever. Fort Worth divorce attorney V. Wayne Ward has been helping clients through difficult, contested divorces for more than 30 years. Whether your spouse suffers from a personality disorder or simple belligerence, Mr. Ward can guide you through the process so you accomplish your divorce. 

Contact the Law Office of V. Wayne Ward or call 817-789-4436. We are here to help.