What to Do When a Spouse Fails to Respond to Divorce Papers

What to Do When a Spouse…

Your spouse may not be ready for divorce when you are. Hard feelings, hostility, or fear could stand in the way of moving on from a broken marriage. What can you do when your spouse fails to respond to divorce papers? Can one spouse get a divorce even if the other refuses to participate in the process?

What are My Options When My Spouse Won’t Agree to Divorce

The fastest way to get divorced in Pennsylvania is through a mutual consent divorce, which has a waiting period of just 90 days and no mandatory separation. However, each spouse must sign an affidavit requesting a divorce.

You aren’t stuck in a marriage forever if your spouse fails to respond to divorce papers or sign the affidavit, but the process will take longer or be more difficult. There are two ways one spouse can get a divorce without the other’s consent in Pennsylvania:

  • Fault-based divorce based on specific grounds
  • No-fault divorce following a one-year separation

No-Fault Separation-Based Divorce

After the one year of separation, you can file an affidavit for a no-fault divorce on your own. However, your spouse then will have 40 days to contest the divorce or ask for economic relief, like alimony, spousal support, or property division. For some, it can be difficult to wait this long to finalize a no-fault divorce after separating from an unwilling spouse.

Fault-Based Divorce

A fault-based divorce doesn’t have a set waiting period. You can be divorced as soon as you can get a hearing. However, you and your divorce attorney will need to prove the fault occurred. This can be difficult in some cases and embarrassing or intimidating in others. At Berman & Associates, our experienced divorce attorneys are well-versed in proving the grounds for fault-based divorces. We can help you build a case to prove why your marriage should be over, even if your spouse won’t agree.

Serving PA Divorce Papers: What if My Spouse Avoids Service?

If you file for divorce without your spouse’s mutual consent, you will need to serve them with divorce papers, including your affidavit for separation-based divorce, or the complaint in a fault-based case. If your spouse is not properly served, your divorce will not be finalized, and could even be dismissed.

Hollywood has made service of process or “being served” seem more intimidating than it is. In Pennsylvania, you can serve your spouse papers simply by having a competent adult (over 18 and not a relative or employee) hand them copies of the divorce papers within 30 days of filing. This is often done by a peace officer or privately hired process server.

If your spouse truly does not want to get divorced, they may try to avoid service. However, PA divorce law also allows service by mail with “return receipt requested.” If your spouse refuses to sign for the divorce papers, your divorce attorney can then send them by regular mail. The court can also authorize service by publication if your spouse becomes truly hard to find.

At Berman Law, we take care of serving your divorce papers for you. We work with local peace officers or process servers and the post office to make sure your spouse receives the divorce papers, and a proper proof of service is filed with the court. We won’t allow your spouse’s attempts to avoid service to stop you from getting a divorce.

What if My Spouse Does Not Respond to Divorce Papers?

There is no such thing as a default divorce in Pennsylvania, but that is because your spouse is not required to respond to your affidavit or complaint for divorce. Pennsylvania law assumes your spouse denies everything in your complaint. If your spouse does not respond to divorce papers or show up for your hearing, the Berman Law team will present the necessary proofs to have a judgment of divorce entered anyway.

Why Should I Respond to Divorce Papers if I Don’t Have To?

If you are the one receiving divorce papers, you may wonder whether it is worth responding at all. Since a judgment will be entered either way, what is the benefit of filing an Answer or showing up in court? Refusing to respond to divorce papers puts your spouse in control of the divorce process. There are a lot of moving pieces in a divorce, including:

If you ignore divorce papers and don’t engage in the divorce process, the court will resolve all these issues in your spouse’s favor, leaving you with less than you might receive in a fair divorce settlement. By working with the Berman Law team, you can raise issues your spouse would rather the court overlooked -- such as post-judgment spousal support -- and make sure you and your children will be provided for even after the judgment is final.

Get Help With Your Divorce Papers

At Berman & Associates, our experienced Pennsylvania family law attorneys won’t let an uncooperative spouse stand in the way of the next phase of your life. We will help you choose the right process for filing your divorce papers and assist in obtaining proper service and a swift resolution to your divorce. If your spouse fails to respond to divorce papers or show up in court, we will help you prove your case and get a favorable judgment entered on your behalf. Contact us to speak with our divorce team and see how we can help with your family law matter.

Categories: Divorce

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