During a divorce, you have many hurdles to overcome. But perhaps the biggest divorce obstacle is when your spouse doesn’t actually want to end the marriage. That’s a tough one, for sure. However, there are options if you want a divorce, but your spouse doesn’t.
This sounds like the stuff of melodramatic late night cable movies. One spouse wants out, but the other won’t let that happen. Thus the hero remains stuck in a loveless, hazardous marriage. It’s not usually quite that dramatic in reality, but one party’s unwillingness is often the biggest divorce obstacle in the process.
The good news is that in most states, including Washington, that can’t really happen anymore. Every situation is different, of course, and we hear extraordinary stories all the time, but unless there’s some truly horror movie stuff going on—threats, abuse, that sort of thing—you can clear the biggest divorce obstacle if you want. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible.
With the exception of South Dakota and Mississippi, every state in the U.S. now practices no-fault divorce. On a practical level, this means that as long as one spouse wants a divorce, the state will grant the request. There’s no need to assign blame or for one spouse to prove the other breached the marital contract.
Before no-fault divorce, the petitioning spouse had to show grounds to end a marriage. The list of potential faults includes adultery, physical or emotional abuse, drug use, insanity, inability to have sexual intercourse, and more.
In no-fault divorce cases, however, it’s enough for one spouse to say they want out. You simply need to declare that there are irreconcilable differences, with no hope of bridging that gap. So long as you’re legally married in the first place, meet the residency requirements where you file, and follow the proper procedure, divorce will be yours.
How They Can Slow It Down
Though it’s not the problem it once was, one spouse not wanting to end a marriage often remains the biggest divorce obstacle you may face. Your soon-to-be-ex may not be able to outright deny you a divorce, but it’s possible to drag out the process and make it as unpleasant as possible. They may do this out of spite, or even for some strategic advantage in the divorce settlement.
Often, the other party will dig in its heels at every step to create the biggest divorce obstacle possible. Your spouse may take every last second to produce documents, respond to motions, submit discovery, and generally slow the process down at every turn. They may prove unwilling to accept mediation, play the emotional distress card, or even flat out refuse to sign divorce papers.
What You Can Do
All of this creates conflict and friction. It’s hard not to grow impatient as you watch your spouse drag out every step. The best course of action in these situations is usually to wait. Being patient isn’t always easy, and you’ll likely get frustrated along the way. Waiting for everyone to play ball and bargain in earnest, will likely have the best results on your settlement.
Pushing and pestering and complaining doesn’t usually do much good. In many cases, it plays right into what your spouse wants. It may take time, perseverance, and cause you no end of irrigation. But when both parties are open to negotiating the division of property, parenting plans, and generally participate in the process, it’s often a much smoother ride.
When you file for divorce, a trial is automatically scheduled. Though it’s usually months away, it often forces the other party’s hand. At least there’s a point where your spouse has to engage or face the consequences. Many people are more open to negotiating and hammering out a divorce agreement as a hard-and-fast trial date approaches. Still usually the biggest divorce obstacle, it’s comforting to have an end in sight.
If your spouse simply refuses to engage, the courts may award you a default judgment. If your spouse fails to respond to the petition for dissolution within 20 days of being served, you can move forward by filing a motion for default. This declares that your spouse hasn’t responded to the divorce petition. It’s only applicable if your spouse did not file a response.
Once you submit the motion for default, you must wait a minimum of 90 days after you served your spouse. When the time expires, a judge can sign the final divorce decree and officially end your marriage. Since this essentially becomes an uncontested divorce, in most cases, you get whatever you ask for. This includes parenting plans, the division of property, and all the rest.
An unenthusiastic reaction may be the biggest divorce obstacle you face, but your spouse can’t stop you from ending a marriage. The process may take longer, or become problematic in many ways, but you’ll get your divorce if you want one.
Like most family law matters, it’s likely in your best interest to hire an experienced divorce lawyer if you’re attempting to divorce a reluctant spouse. An attorney with experience in these cases can guide you around the biggest divorce obstacle, and point you towards an optimal outcome.
If you have questions about your divorce, contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.