Wife will not sign divorce papers. Do I need her signature?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My wife has cheated on me several times with a number of men. I tried to make my marriage work, but she refuses to remain faithful. I want a divorce, but she is against it. What are my options?” 

There was a time in the United States that couples could only divorce if one party could prove the other spouse was “at fault.” Reasons could include infidelity, abandonment, cruel and inhumane treatment, imprisonment, etc.

Although marriages can still be dissolved for these reasons, beginning in the 1960s states passed no-fault divorce laws, allowing couples to divorce even if one spouse’s actions did not contribute to the dissolution of the marriage.

The passage of no-fault divorce laws dramatically increased the incidence of divorce, leading to what many would consider the destruction of the American nuclear family. Others would contend that although these laws have contributed to chaos and marital breakdown, they have allowed spouses, who may have been in a terrible marriage, to escape the marriage through divorce.

Spouse is fighting against a divorce

Now, you mentioned your wife is fighting against the divorce. As mentioned above, due to no-fault divorce laws, either spouse is allowed to file for divorce and can receive a divorce regardless of their spouse’s desire remain married.

Delaying a divorce can take many forms:

While your spouse may not be able to stop the divorce, this does not mean that they won’t use several aggressive tactics to delay the divorce. Common divorce delay tactics can include the following:

  1. Your wife refuses to accept the divorce papers.

To initiate a divorce lawsuit, your spouse must legally be served with the divorce petition and information about how to respond to the suit. One of the most common ways a spouse will attempt to delay a divorce is by refusing to accept the divorce papers or avoiding service. While this might work for a short period of time, ultimately the suit will move forward.

  1. Your wife refuses to sign the divorce papers.

Refusing to sign divorce papers is a common tactic used in the movies and television where the spouse throws the divorce papers back at the spouse requesting the divorce. While it makes for dramatic television, if your wife refuses to sign the papers eventually the case will be brought to court where a judge enforce the divorce. Unfortunately, if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce decree it could lengthen the process and make it substantially more expensive.

  1. Your spouse requests marriage counseling.

While the courts may have the authority to require you to attend marriage counseling prior to completing the divorce, if you are totally against the idea and the courts believe it will be a waste of time it’s likely they will not make this a requirement.

Other means your spouse may use to delay or stop the divorce could range from the minor to the severe. The least concerning are the annoying actions of disagreeing with every suggestion and refusing to be reasonable with regards to property distribution, spousal support, or child custody.

More serious actions could include taking your children and refusing to let you see them, threatening you, destroying your property, or any other violent actions intended to keep you in the marriage.

Bottom line:

Under current divorce laws you only need to prove that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences that you two cannot resolve. You do not have to prove that your wife’s actions led to the dissolution of your marriage.

If you are ready to file for divorce you are legally allowed to petition for divorce on your own. If your spouse is against the divorce there are steps they can take to drag the divorce out by contesting different issues, but ultimately there is little they can do to stop the divorce.

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