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How could a divorce be finalized I didn’t sign anything?

Contrary to popular belief, a divorce can actually be finalized without both spouses’ signatures. Although in the past both parties had to sign in order for the divorce to be official, modern times have allowed for divorces to be granted in several different circumstances without one spouse signing anything. Different states, however, do have different rules regarding specific divorce proceedings, but it is possible to obtain a finalized divorce without both signatures in all fifty states.

When both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce, it is called an uncontested divorce and does not need to go to trial. For this type of divorce to be official, both spouses must provide the appropriate necessary divorce documents and sign an agreement. If one spouse refuses to sign the papers, the other spouse can file a petition with their family court and get a contested divorce. A contested divorce is when the two parties disagree on some aspect of the agreement and is typically more complicated than an uncontested divorce. The case would then go to court where the judge would consequently determine the status of the divorce, regardless of a lack of a spouse’s signature. The judge is the only one who would to need to sign the decree to finalize it, but there are ways for a spouse to appeal the judge’s findings.

In some cases, if a spouse is unresponsive after 30 days even after being effectively served, the other spouse—the spouse who filed for divorce and served the papers—can request a default. With a default, a judge would determine the status of a divorce, and a default can also be granted in situations where a spouse cannot be found. In these default cases, the spouse forgoes their right to influence the proceedings or ruling by not responding or being in court, thus again making it possible for one spouse to not sign anything and still end up officially divorced.

Furthermore, if spouses live in different states, a judge can allow an ex-parte divorce. As long as the spouse receives the correct notice and decides not to part of the divorce proceedings as well as the spouse within the court jurisdiction filing for divorce meets the procedural requirements, a judge will most likely accept an ex-parte divorce. Proper notice can simply mean hiring a sheriff or appropriate third party to serve the divorce papers, but other appropriate methods can vary court to court; if serving a spouse is not possible, some courts will even allow a posting of the notice of divorce in the newspaper as proper notification.

Divorce is often a complex matter, but there are ways to obtain a divorce even if one spouse refuses to or does not sign. Unlike what is often depicted in Hollywood, avoiding being served is not a foolproof way to stop divorce proceedings because there are other ways to achieve a divorce even with an uncooperative or unresponsive spouse. While divorce without both parties’ signatures is possible, there are a lot of different factors that can impact divorce and seeking legal counsel for the specific situation and state can be immensely helpful.