Do I Have to Sign the Divorce Papers for it to Go Through?

Divorce is stressful, and you must consider several things before signing on the dotted line. Looking back, you may be reluctant to sign the papers because you’re not ready to let go of everything you shared with your partner or for some other reason. On the other hand, your spouse may be prepared to go through with the divorce and has already signed the papers.

It would help to consult a skilled family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio for legal counsel. They will tell you that you don’t have to sign the papers. However, the divorce will still go through, eventually, although it will be contested. Your spouse can still achieve the divorce whether or not you cooperate and sign the papers. The only question is whether or not you agree to the division of property and debts, and the provisions regarding your children. It may be that you just need more information to decide whether the proposal is a fair one. Once your attorney has made an appearance, at least you will be given fair notice of the trial date so that you can appear and present your side.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Divorce is often easy when both spouses agree to the divorce terms in an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is not always possible, leading to a contested divorce, which can be complex and often extends the process.

A contested divorce creates room to go into depth about the issues surrounding the divorce, such as:

  • Abuse if your spouse subjected you to physical or mental abuse during the marriage
  • Deep disagreements such as spousal maintenance, child custody, and property division
  • The value of certain assets such as your house and whether it is separate or community property
  • Division of retirement funds, earned but undistributed bonuses, and family businesses
  • Deception if you feel your spouse is dishonest about child care capabilities or finances

A contested divorce may also provide room for reconciliation if you are willing to work on your marriage. Skilled divorce lawyers in San Antonio can help you explore this option.

What Legal Options Can My Spouse Pursue if I Don’t Sign the Divorce Papers?

Your spouse can pursue various legal options if you refuse to sign the divorce papers:

1. Default Judgment

Through his or her divorce attorneys in San Antonio, your spouse can request the judge to grant the divorce by default. As with any other divorce, they will have to wait 60 days after filing their petition before the divorce can be finalized. The court will decide on the issues and make a judgment after the waiting period has expired, and if you have not appeared to contest the issues, the court will most likely sign whatever your spouse’s attorney has prepared. The final decree in case of a default can be very one-sided.

Your spouse has an extremely high chance of being granted all of their requests as outlined in the petition if you don’t respond. The court will consider your lack of response an agreement to the terms, so they have no reason not to honor the petition.

Default Divorce Requirements

The following conditions must be met for a court to grant a divorce by default:

  • You have been personally served with the Original Petition for Divorce
  • You have failed to file an answer within the required time
  • The citation has been on file with the court for at least ten days
  • It’s been at least 60 days since your spouse filed the Original Petition for Divorce

Your spouse must have the following documents when requesting default divorce from a Family Law Court:

  • Medical Support Order if there are children involved
  • Wage Withholding Order for child support if there are children
  • Final Decree of Divorce
  • Vital Statistics information form
  • Child Support Information Sheet if there are children
  • Court Report Information Form
  • TFC section 105.006 if there are children
  • Certificate of Last Known Address
  • Service Member Civil Relief Act Affidavit

2. Mediation

If you and your spouse can’t see eye to eye, they may seek mediation from professionals with the help of experienced San Antonio, Texas, divorce attorneys. Both of you will sit down with the mediator, who is a neutral party. They will help you discuss the issues to reach an amicable agreement.

If you agree on divorce, the issues of the case won’t have to go to court. One party is still responsible to present some testimony before the divorce can be granted, but the terms of the divorce will be according to the terms you agreed upon in mediation.

3. Trial

Most couples try to avoid trial, but sometimes it’s inevitable. A trial can be lengthy and time-consuming, but it may be the best action depending on the case specifics. During the trial, the judge will resolve all the divorce issues, including property division, debt division, child custody and support, and spousal support.

During the hearing or soon afterwards, the judge will issue a verbal ruling depending on the details in the petition and the evidence presented. They will then sign the final decree, whether or not you attend the final hearing. However, remember that the court can hold you in contempt for not showing up in some cases. In any event, the final decree will not be favorable to you if you are absent, unless you have an agreement signed ahead of time.

Skilled divorce lawyers in San Antonio can provide legal representation to ensure your wishes are heard and your rights protected during the trial.

Can My Spouse Get Divorced Without Me Knowing?

Courts try as much as possible to avoid one-sided divorce proceedings. That means your spouse can’t go behind your back to get a secret divorce. They must give you notice after they file the divorce petition to provide you with a chance to respond. The petition is delivered to you through the “service of process.”

If your spouse can’t locate you, they may ask the court that they be allowed to notify you about the divorce through another method. They must show that they made several serious attempts to find and serve you the papers.

Depending on the situation, the judge will decide whether to grant your spouse’s request and which other alternative service to allow. In most cases, they will be allowed to publish a notice in a newspaper. Sometimes, the notice is simply posted on the door of your home or on the courthouse steps. You are presumed then to have received notice even though chances are very high that you will never see that newspaper publication or the papers posted on the courthouse steps.

Once the “service” is completed, and the requisite time periods have expired without a proper written answer from you, then your spouse can go to the court and seek a default judgment without ever telling you what day they intend to go to court. There is no requirement that you be informed of the hearing date or time if you did not answer the petition.

Is There Anything You Can Do if the Default Divorce Decree Against You has Already Been Signed by the Judge?

If you find out that your spouse lied about not knowing how to find you or if the process server never gave you notice that a divorce suit had been filed, there are some possibilities to request a “do over,” but the deadlines to do so are very short.

In most cases, you only have 30 days after the final decree is signed by the judge in which to file a motion for new trial and explain why you didn’t answer the petition. There are some other possible ways to get a new trial after the 30th day, depending upon the particular facts involved. You will need a skilled attorney to get before a judge to request a new trial after a default divorce.

An Experienced Divorce Attorney Helping You Resolve Contested Divorce Issues

Divorce can be overwhelming, and you may be undecided about signing the papers for various personal reasons. Despite your hesitation or unwillingness to sign, your spouse can still pursue a divorce through mediation, trial, or default judgment. San Antonio divorce attorneys can help you work through any of these divorce procedures for the most favorable outcome.

Our family law and estate planning law firm hosts compassionate divorce attorneys to help you evaluate all your options before proceeding with a divorce. Considering all the available resources before making any decision is crucial, given the high stakes. Call Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. at (210) 775-0353 to schedule a consultation.