If you have been blindsided by divorce papers, it can be natural to want to ignore them. Maybe if you ignore the problem it will go away. However, there are few things in life that work this way and divorce isn’t one of them.
Contrary to what you may have heard or what you might think, refusing to sign divorce papers will not stop your divorce. Instead, what will happen if you refuse to sign your divorce papers is that you will give up your rights to negotiate a settlement that takes into consideration what you want. All matters related to property division, child custody, and spousal support will be determined solely by your spouse.
Types of Divorces
The dissolution of a marriage is a legal process, a form of litigation. The party that is suing for divorce is known as the petitioner, while the party that is served with divorce papers is the respondent. Typically, the respondent has 30 days to respond to divorce papers. If he or she fails to do so, the judge could rule in favor of the petitioner. This is known as a default judgment.
The respondent has no rights and will have no ruling that favors their interest should a default judgment be handed down by the judge.
Most of the time, when people think of a divorce they think of a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, the respondent hires a lawyer of their own and files a petition with the court disputing the terms laid out in the initial divorce papers.
Perhaps the respondent didn’t like the way his or her spouse divided the property or allocated time with the children. With the help of a lawyer, the respondent can seek to get terms more favorable to what they want (most likely more of the property and more time with the kids). The securing of these more favorable terms can occur either through a courtroom verdict or an out of court settlement.
While contested divorces can be contentious, there are several ways to work through them without going to court. Collaborative divorces and mediation are two ways all parties involved can work together to reach a settlement.
Finally, there is a type of divorce where the petitioner and respondent agree on the terms of the divorce from the very beginning. This is known as an uncontested divorce. While uncontested divorces might be rarer than contested divorces, they are not unheard of.
Usually, before a couple can pursue an uncontested divorce, they have to be in agreement on issues like:
- Who will pay child support and how much
- Which spouse will pay spousal support (if any)
- How to divide property and debts
- Which parent will get custody of the children and the terms of visitation for the other parent
In reality, a failure to sign divorce papers is a type of uncontested divorce, since the respondent is choosing not to contest any of the terms of the divorce. The difference, however, is that in traditional uncontested divorces, both spouses have come to an agreement before filing for divorce.
What You Should Do If You Are Served Divorce Papers
If you are served with divorce papers, you should hire the services of an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. You will have 30 days to respond to the divorce papers, and your lawyer will need as much time as possible to consider your case and how you can best respond.
Even if you think you and your spouse can reach an out of court settlement, it is best to proceed with the help of a lawyer. Divorce can be one of the most difficult parts of anyone’s life and a lawyer can help ease your burden during this challenging time.