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Your spouse will not sign divorce papers. Now What?

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 15-Feb-2013

Your spouse and you agreed to an uncontested divorce, but now he or she hasn't signed the necessary divorce papers. There is still opportunity for you to get an uncontested divorce; this does not mean the next step is necessarily a heated contested divorce.

If your spouse accidentally missed the deadline, or if you have come to an agreement since the divorce petition expired you can have your uncontested divorce attorney re-file the appropriate documents, called a "reinstatement" in Pennsylvania. There may be an additional fee to re-file the paperwork with the court, but it's a lot cheaper than heading for a contested divorce. Also, your uncontested divorce may be slightly delayed due to additional paperwork. It can take about 2-5 weeks for a divorce case to be reinstated, depending on how fast the court is able to process your divorce paperwork.

An uncontested divorce is often about compromise. No one person walks away as a winner, both parties generally do suffer losses. If your spouse is not signing the divorce petition due to an issue with the marital settlement agreement, go back and revisit the terms. Think about what you really want, what you can live without, and areas you can compromise on. Giving in a little now may save you a lot of hassle and money later on.

In the worst case scenario you may be headed for a contested divorce. If you believe your spouse is headed in this direction, an intervention may be necessary. A form of intervention is sitting down with your spouse and explaining why an uncontested divorce would benefit the both of you. Some key points would be that you both would save money (especially with the high fees many lawyers charge), to lessen the emotional trauma for you and the children, and to be able to work out your own marital settlement agreement instead of a judge deciding on the terms of your future.

If you are uncomfortable with spearheading an intervention on your own, you may want to consider obtaining professional help. Assistance can be found in various professions such as a divorce coach or a professional therapist. Generally it's not a good idea to include friends or family in playing the role of mediator.

You will only be granted an uncontested divorce if both you and your spouse have signed and submitted all of the necessary paperwork on time. Also, be advised that a separation of two years or more does not mean you will be granted a default divorce or are automatically divorced. Proper legal documents must be submitted to the courts at the right time, and you will need a valid divorce decree to demonstrate you are officially divorced.