Can you refuse to sign divorce papers?

Updated June 13, 2017

Anyone can refuse to sign divorce papers, but this will only delay the inevitable. Divorce papers might be refused because someone does not agree with the stipulations of the agreement. If compromises are made, the agreement can be revised, resulting in both parties signing the papers. However, if someone does not sign the papers because he/she does not want to end the marriage, obtaining a divorce is much more difficult.


A divorce is initiated by the filing of a petition with the state court. It is then served to the other spouse, who usually has 30 days to provide a response. If there is agreement by both parties, the divorce can be obtained with the completion of some more papers. If an agreement cannot be made, the matter is taken to court for a hearing and can lead to a trial.


Every state has either fault or no-fault divorce. Fault considers the reasons for the divorce, which affects who gets what from the divorce. For example, if the grounds for a divorce is adultery, the adulterer might receive less money or property since this person broke a marriage vow, which caused the divorce. No-fault divorce means that there is no blame attributed to either party. As such, the actions of the individuals getting a divorce is not considered when a divorce settlement is made.


The refusal to sign divorce papers in a no-fault state will not stop it from happening. In a fault state, refusal to sign the papers results in the need for a trial. The party who filed for divorce has to demonstrate grounds to the court. This rarely happens and when it does, the court will almost always find there were grounds for divorce.


In addition to the type of divorce used by each state, there are requirements for divorce that also vary by state. Divorces can only be filed in the state and county of residence; the length of residence varies by state. Also, the divorce process may be quicker in states that require less of a waiting period from when the petition was filed to when the divorce is final. Reasons for divorce in one state may not be recognised in other states. However, in general, the two accepted grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences and separation.


Divorce can have a negative impact on children, even if it was an amicable one. On the other hand, staying together for the sake of the children can be just as bad, if not worse. With this in mind, marriage counselling may helpful in identifying and working out problems. If this does not help, a trial separation might. If the agreement to divorce is not mutual, individual therapy could be beneficial.

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About the Author

Barbara Aufiero has been writing health-related articles since 2008, specializing in mental health and health insurance. Aufiero resides in New York and holds a Master of Arts in psychology.