When Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

There are legal remedies available when one’s spouse will not sign the divorce papers. What follows depends on whether the spouse can be located and if they contest the divorce.

Can the Spouse Be Located?

If the location of a spouse is known, Nevada law requires that the spouse be served personally with a Complaint for Divorce. After that, the spouse will have 21 consecutive days to respond to it.

When a spouse cannot be located, and reasonable efforts to track down a spouse are unsuccessful, one can request a judge to publish the Summons in an attempt to notify the spouse who cannot be tracked down (the Defendant) of the divorce action. In Nevada, the publication should occur once a week for a total of four weeks. As is the case when the Defendant can be located and served personally, the Defendant is given 21 days after the last publication date to respond.

When the Spouse Does Not Respond

If the Defendant fails to respond within the 21-day period, one can request the court to grant a Default. A Default means the spouse does not take issue with the request for a divorce because he or she failed to respond.  However, Defaults are rarely given and difficult to obtain, legal advice should be sought.

When a Spouse Responds

For the Defendant to respond properly to the complaint, they have to file an Answer and Counterclaim no later than the 21-day waiting period. If the spouse does so, the divorce becomes a contested matter. The standard divorce process will unfold. The court will schedule a Case Management Conference. The conference offers couples the opportunity to arrive at an agreement without going to trial. Both spouses and their attorneys are expected to appear. If the divorcing parties cannot arrive at an agreement, the court will schedule a trial.

Tips for Handling a Divorce When a Spouse Is Uncooperative

It can be frustrating for a person if their spouse will not sign the divorce papers. The person should ensure they file the necessary documents correctly. Failure to file correctly will make the process longer and more stressful. A spouse also needs to be served the divorce papers properly.

Besides having proper knowledge of the divorce process, a divorce attorney may be able to help couples work around awkward situations and parties.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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