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What If My Spouse Won’t Sign the Divorce Papers?

Filing for divorce can be an emotional and challenging legal experience – particularly when one spouse refuses to sign or even acknowledge the divorce papers. Many respondents mistakenly believe that they can stall or complicate the divorce process by simply ignoring the situation altogether. However, in Missouri, petitioners can benefit from “default” divorces if their spouses refuse to consent to the divorce.

Pursuing a Default Divorce

Upon being served, a respondent has 30 days to file an answer to the initial divorce petition. This response tells the court that the respondent plans to be an active participant in the divorce process. It also allows the respondent to object to any of the items requested in the divorce petition, including but not limited to matters relating to child custody, parenting time, asset division, and financial support options.

If the respondent refuses or fails to respond within 30 days, then the petitioner can legally request a “default and inquiry” and set the case for a hearing. A copy of the default and inquiry hearing needs to be delivered to the respondent before the default hearing, notifying Respondent of day, time and location of the hearing.

A Default Hearing

Generally the Judge will probably not grant a default divorce if the respondent appears at the default hearing. In fact, the judge may even order a continuance of the proceedings to give the respondent time to file an answer and to obtain his or her own attorney.  Generally the Judge will proceed with the default hearing if the Respondent does not attend the default hearing. Likewise, a petitioner should not be able to make additional requests or changes to their original petition just because the respondent didn’t make an appearance.

Missouri law allows respondents one year to file a motion to attempt to vacate the default judgment, in very limited factual situations..  If you are the Respondent, your best interest is to timely and properly file an answer to the petition to prevent a default judgment from being entered.

Have Questions? Schedule a Consultation

If you’re ready to start the next chapter of your life, contact the Chesterfield divorce attorney at Galmiche Law Firm, P.C. today. Our lawyer has over 30 years of legal experience and is well-versed in both contested and uncontested divorce procedures. We can guide you through this complex legal process, negotiate on your behalf, and represent your best interests both in and out of court. We can also help you pursue a default divorce case if your spouse is being uncooperative.

Contact Galmiche Law Firm at (636) 552-4841 to schedule a consultation and explore your legal options.