If you seeking a divorce in Los Angeles County, some issues are obvious. For example, it's no secret that going through the California divorce process is typically stressful and complicated. Numerous studies have confirmed that getting a divorce is often one of the most stressful life events. In some cases, to make matters even worse, some will find themselves in a situation where one spouse will claim they will simply “refuse to sign the divorce papers” once they are served.
If you intend to divorce your spouse but have run into a roadblock when you find out they don't agree with this decision, there is no need to panic. With the right guidance from the Los Angeles divorce lawyers at Furman & Zavatsky, you can navigate the divorce process – even if your spouse is uncooperative, which is appropriately known as an “uncooperative spouse.” Read some tips on how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.
When you hear a divorce lawyer say a spouse is “uncooperative,” they normally mean the spouse doesn't want to sign the “proof of service,” doesn't want to get a divorce, or doesn't want to make any agreements of important issues that need to be decided to finalize the divorce.
However, when it comes to divorce in California, your divorce can be finalized even if your spouse does not want to “sign the divorce papers”, or make any agreements on the issue. If they refuse to sign the proof of service, you can arrange to have a friend of family member serve your spouse, arrange for a process server to serve them, or even arrange for a sheriff to serve your spouse.
It's important to note that serving your spouse with divorce papers is only the start of the divorce. The Los Angeles County Divorce Court will require a “proof of service,” which is considered a formal and legal notification that a divorce petition has been filed.
It's mandatory for service to be made, but not that the spouse has to actually sign anything. In California, a divorce can proceed through the courts and even be finalized if your spouse absolutely refuses to sign any papers. Contact one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys for more specific information.
Now that we have covered a general overview of situations where you have an uncooperative spouse in a divorce let's take a closer look at some legal language below.
The Mythology of Signing California Divorce Papers
As stated above, there is often a misconception that you can only get a divorce in California if your spouse signs the divorce papers. This is a common question from our Los Angeles family law clients.
The truth is that California is a no-fault state, meaning you don't need your spouse's signature to get a divorce. However, it should be noted that it is important to properly serve your spouse with the divorce petition, which is necessary to satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of the court that will show you or your spouse have resided in California for at least six months prior to filing the petition, and in Los Angeles for three months prior to filing the petition.
This is known as California's residency requirements. Simply put, in the state of California, you don't need your spouse's consent to divorce. Why? Because California is a “no-fault” state, but you must remember, as stated above….you MUST properly serve your spouse with the divorce petition (complaint).
What Does “No Fault” Mean?
As discussed, you probably already know California is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that neither spouse must prove the other is “guilty” or give any other reason to seek dissolution of the marriage. You only need to tell the court you have “irreconcilable differences.”
What about ‘Domestic Partnerships'?
If a same-sex couple (or opposite-sex couple over age 62) has registered as a domestic partnership, they are considered legally married, with the same rights, privileges, and obligations, as a traditional marriage. Consequently, they have the same rights and obligations under California law regarding marital dissolution.
Starting the Process
To start a divorce, one spouse must file the divorce petition and then serve the petition (with a summons) to the other spouse. California has standard court forms, although we advise those seeking a divorce to hire an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney to help work through this process.
There are too many nuances, complexities, and subtleties for those who are considering going through the divorce process without an attorney. For this reason, we often are called upon to fix what someone else started, costing them more time, money, energy, and aggravation.
For this article, let's assume one spouse wants to initiate the divorce and files a petition against the other spouse. They must then make good service, which can be by mail (against signed receipt) or by personal delivery (by a third person, but not herself). Next, the Proof of Service must be filed with the Court.
The other spouse has 30 days to respond. If not, the first spouse can ask the court for a ‘default.' This means that the Los Angeles County Family Law Court can award judgment for divorce, even if open issues remain, such as:
- Child support
- Dividing property
- Establishing who is responsible for paying debts
If you need additional information, call a Los Angeles divorce lawyer at our law firm.
Technical Paperwork Requirements are Critically Important
Like most court proceedings, marital dissolution (divorce) requires strict adherence to court rules, particularly what might seem like stacks of technical paperwork. Here's a non-exhaustive list of typical California divorce papers that the spouse initiating the divorce might be required to submit:
- Proof of Service
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
- Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application
- Property Declaration
- Income and Expense Declaration
- Schedule of Assets and Debts
- Request for Default
- Proposed Order for Judgment
Here is the potential trap. If the first spouse's paperwork isn't in order – and the non-consenting spouse realizes it – they can stall, and this might cause the case to be dismissed. That's why there's no substitute for hiring a skilled divorce lawyer for your case. Every case is different. Besides an experienced attorney's deep understanding and knowledge of the law, and the complexities of your case, your lawyer will properly handle navigating this clerical maze.
Timing and the Uncooperative Spouse
We understand that when married couples have conflict, they want to move on from the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible. Our law firm is here to help. From the date a spouse files, the minimum time for divorce takes six months – the court simply will not grant a divorce before then. From our experience, that time passes quickly.
What happens when a spouse refuses to cooperate? Again, those ‘scorched earth,' knockdown, drag-them-out cases are unusual. They are expensive. We discourage that conduct. Courts are busy and have little tolerance for stall tactics. There are many ways to foster cooperation (for example, through mediation, arbitration, and settlement discussions). In some cases, one or both spouses may ask the court to intercede and make a decision.
The divorce process is rarely easy and can become even more complicated and difficult if one spouse is not cooperative. To help reduce the stress of a pending divorce, contact the Los Angeles divorce lawyers at Furman and Zavatsky. You can call us at 818-528-3471 or contact us through our online form. We will help put together a plan of action and advocate for your divorce. We offer a free case evaluation.