Many people incorrectly believe that they can stop a divorce in its tracks by refusing to sign or respond to their spouse’s legal documents. The truth is that failure to sign divorce papers will do nothing but limit the non-signing spouse’s legal rights – without preventing the divorce. If you are a resident of Ventura or Santa Barbara County who has recently been served with divorce papers, and you are unsure as to how you should proceed, you should go over your rights and responsibilities with an experienced Ventura divorce lawyer as soon as possible. If you ignore the divorce papers for too long, you could inadvertently forfeit your right to participate in your own case.
Can You Refuse a Divorce in California?
The short answer to this question is no – you cannot legally refuse your husband or wife a divorce, nor can you be refused a divorce by your wife or husband. California’s no-fault divorce laws do not require you to obtain your spouse’s signature, or vice versa, to initiate or advance divorce proceedings against your spouse.
It is impossible to overstate the fact that accidental failure or deliberate refusal to sign divorce papers will not prevent divorce from occurring. The only effect such failure or refusal will have is to strip away the non-signing spouse’s legal rights. Ignoring divorce papers will not stop the divorce from being granted; it will merely silence your voice in determinations of child custody, alimony, property division, and other critical decisions. If you wish to have a say in these issues – which can impact your finances, your property rights, and even how often you see your own children – you must complete a legal form called a “response,” as our Ventura legal separation attorneys discuss in the next section of this article.
What Can I Do if My Husband or Wife Won’t Sign Divorce Papers?
The California divorce process begins when one spouse, called the “petitioner,” serves the other spouse, called the “respondent,” with divorce papers. These papers include:
- The petition or complaint for divorce.
- A summons indicating when and where the respondent must appear in court.
The respondent has 30 days to file a response addressing requests for child custody and visitation (“parenting time”), child support, and related matters. A Santa Barbara high net worth divorce attorney can help ensure that the proper forms are completed correctly and are timely filed in the appropriate court. Alternately, the respondent may obtain a written notarized agreement instead of filing a response, which is called a “default” or “uncontested” divorce.
If the respondent fails to file a response before the 30-day deadline passes, and does not have a written notarized agreement, the case is called a “true default” divorce, which differs from a default divorce in that neither a response is filed nor an agreement prepared. In a true default scenario, the petitioner may proceed with the divorce while the respondent is excluded from decisions about custody, alimony, and property rights. As such, defaulting effectively gives the petitioner total control over the terms of the divorce.
If you are the respondent spouse and wish to avoid a default divorce, immediately contact the Ventura family law attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth, who can advise you as to which steps to take next. You should also seek legal assistance if you are the petitioning spouse, as you will need to complete numerous forms to complete the true default divorce process. To provide just a few examples, you will need to submit:
- Form FL-165 – Request to Enter Default
- Form FL-170 – Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation
- Form FL-180 – Judgment of Dissolution, Legal Separation, or Nullity
- Form FL-190 – Notice of Entry of Judgment
It helps to gather financial records before completing these forms, which will prompt you to supply information, or answer questions, about issues such as:
- Whether a written agreement or response was filed.
- Whether you and your spouse have both completed supporting documentation, such as FL-150 (Income and Expense Declaration).
- You and your spouse’s debts and assets.
- Your military service, where applicable.
FL-165, FL-170, and your other divorce forms will be examined by the family court handling your case. Unless there is an error or problem, such as a missing form or discrepancies in your financial information, the court will generally proceed to grant the divorce, dissolving the marriage.
Ventura and Santa Barbara Uncontested (Default) Divorce Lawyers
Going through a divorce can be emotionally exhausting. Nonetheless, it is critical to ensure that each stage of the process is completed properly, with adherence to deadlines and attention to detail.
Allow the experienced Ventura military divorce attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth to guide and represent you during this challenging period. We are here to protect your rights, explain your responsibilities, discuss the grounds for divorce in California, assist you with your legal documentation, represent you at hearings, and provide ongoing support at every stage of the marriage dissolution process.
For a free consultation about how we can help you file for divorce or respond to divorce papers, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 585-5056. Our law firm serves Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.