Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse’s Consent?

Both spouses are not always on the same page during a divorce case. Sometimes, one spouse wants the divorce while the other refuses to cooperate. A spouse’s refusal to consent to a divorce or sign the paperwork will not, however, halt the process. Couples in California can dissolve their marriages with or without both spouses’ consent to the divorce. The divorce may simply be contested rather than uncontested.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

A contested divorce is one in which one spouse does not agree to the divorce or to its terms. The spouse is contesting the divorce. An uncontested divorce means that both people are on the same page and agree on the terms of the divorce. An uncontested divorce is easier and faster to complete than a contested one. Most uncontested divorces do not require trials to complete. Instead, both parties can meet together during pre-trial mediations or meetings to work out the terms of the divorce. A judge will then sign off on the arrangements the couple made, completing the divorce process.

During a contested divorce, the parties may have to go to court for a judge to make final decisions, since the couple cannot work out the details alone. During a contested case, one or both parties may take issue with the proposed custody arrangement, property division, spousal support, child support, or other details of the split. Both parties will go to court, present their cases to a judge, and the judge will be responsible for assigning the terms of the divorce. Contested divorce cases are often longer and more expensive than uncontested ones.

Lack of Consent or Lack of Response?

If your spouse does not consent to the divorce, it does not automatically mean you will have a contested divorce case. If your spouse shows his or her issue with the divorce by failing to respond to your petition for divorce at all, your spouse’s silence will serve as a response in itself. Ignoring divorce papers will also not stop the divorce. A judge will use the failure to respond as a sign that your spouse does consent to the divorce, and does not wish to contest your terms. The judge may grant the divorce and all of your terms, since your spouse never bothered to respond or contest.

In California, your spouse has 30 days of receiving the Petition for Divorce to file an official response. Ignoring a divorce or missing the deadline could result in a default divorce. A default divorce in California means the spouse that ignored the petition gives up the right to have any say in the terms of the split. Most spouses that do not consent to a divorce will not simply ignore the petition. They will contest the divorce in the hopes of postponing it long enough to resolve the issue without breaking up.

Proceeding With Your Contested Divorce

If you want a divorce, your spouse cannot stop you from getting one. He or she can, however, draw out the process and cost you more time and money by contesting the divorce. For this reason, it is important to hire attorneys if your spouse does not want a divorce. Using lawyers could help you and your spouse mediate the issue and come to a resolution you both agree upon. Your spouse may agree to a legal separation instead, for example, or come to see that divorce is the right choice.

Should your spouse continue to contest the terms of your divorce, hire an expert family lawyer to represent you during your trial. Contested divorces with uncooperative spouses can be difficult to navigate. A divorce attorney can help you pursue a default or uncontested divorce as much as possible. If all else fails, your lawyer can help you state your case during a trial for the best odds of a judge agreeing to your desired terms. Using a lawyer can help you navigate the divorce process whether or not your spouse consents.