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Can You Still Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Doesn’t Sign?

Your spouse does not have to sign the papers to get a divorce in California. Your spouse may not sign your divorce papers for many reasons, from refusal to cooperate with the divorce to being unable to locate him or her. In any situation, you could proceed with your divorce even without your spouse’s signature. However, you or your lawyer must follow specific rules and regulations for a valid divorce in these cases. A divorce attorney can help you with your default divorce in California.

If you’re currently facing a divorce with an uncooperative spouse, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C. can help.

No-Fault Divorce Laws

California lawmakers do not require one spouse to prove the other’s fault for a divorce. It is a no-fault divorce state, meaning one spouse can simply cite irreconcilable differences as grounds for the divorce. The state’s no-fault laws make it easier to get a divorce. As long as you have lived in California for at least six months and in the county at least three months, you can file a petition for divorce at your local courthouse without proving your spouse’s fault.

The Serving Requirement

To initiate a divorce, you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with your county’s family courthouse. You may also need to submit a counseling statement, declaration of minors and certificate of assignment. An attorney can help you fill out the correct paperwork and file it with the courthouse in your county of residence. You will need to pay the filing fee when you submit your papers to the court unless you also submit a request to waive the fee.

The next step is one of the most important for a valid divorce case. You must serve your spouse a Summons notifying him or her that you filed for divorce. You will need to file a Proof of Service once you or someone else has served the papers to your spouse. Your spouse will have 30 days from receiving the Summons to respond to your petition. If your spouse does not sign the papers or respond, you must show the courts you made a reasonable effort to serve the papers. A reasonable effort could include hiring someone to locate your spouse and serve the Summons.

If you have made an effort to locate your spouse to no avail, the next step is publishing an ad in the paper about the divorce. This action, called Order of Notice by Publication, is a legal process you must perform through the courts. A newspaper near the area of your spouse’s last known location will publish a notice of your intent to divorce and run it for a few weeks. If your spouse still does not respond within 30 days, you or your lawyer may proceed to finalize your divorce by default.

Default Divorce

A default divorce means a judge will finalize your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage without any input from your spouse if he or she fails to respond to your petition. Should your spouse choose not to sign the papers or respond to your divorce petition at all, a judge can grant the divorce automatically. Not signing the papers will not stop your divorce case from proceeding. The judge will assume your spouse has forfeited any right to participate in the divorce by not responding.

You could also receive a default divorce if you cannot locate your spouse after a good faith attempt to do so. If you have done everything you reasonably could to locate your spouse to serve him or her with divorce papers, a judge could grant you a default divorce. If your spouse finds out, however, he or she may be able to argue the validity of the divorce if you did not make a good faith attempt. In a default divorce, the judge will agree to your terms for child support, custody, visitation, property division, etc. Your spouse will have given up the right to contest your terms by not responding.