What Happens when One Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?
Even in circumstances where both spouses agree on the need for a divorce, obtaining a divorce can be an expensive and drawn-out process. Where one spouse does not want to end the marriage, a split can become even more complex and time-consuming. If you are planning to file for divorce but believe your spouse will object to a split, it becomes even more critical to hire a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorney. Read on to learn about your options when divorcing a spouse who does not consent to the split, and speak with a New Jersey family law attorney who can help you make the process as smooth as possible.
Providing your spouse with divorce paperwork
Some spouses who are loath to divorce believe that they can stall the process by avoiding receiving or signing divorce papers, but you have options for nevertheless moving the divorce process along. The first step in obtaining a divorce is ensuring that your spouse is provided with legal notice that you’ve filed for divorce by serving them with divorce papers. If you’re convinced that your spouse will delay the process at every opportunity, then using a personal process server will be necessary.
There are two main categories of personal service: Service by the county sheriff or service by a private process server. Both will involve the designated server going to your spouse’s home or place of work and ensuring that your spouse receives an official copy of the divorce filing. Should you elect to hire the county sheriff, you’ll need to provide them with a number of documents, such as copies of the complaint for divorce and summons, as well as a service fee. Should you choose to hire a private process server, make sure the company is a reputable and respected one. An experienced family law attorney will have suggestions on which method of service is best in your case.
New Jersey divorce by default
Once your spouse is officially served with the divorce complaint and proof of service is filed with the court, the next hurdle will be to get them to respond to the complaint. Your spouse will be required to answer the complaint within 35 days of being served. If they do not, you will have the option of seeking a default judgment of divorce, or risk having your case dismissed by the court.
Once a party to a divorce requests a default judgment, the unresponsive spouse will have an opportunity to request that the default be vacated and that they have a chance to respond to the complaint. If they don’t respond, the filing spouse will have the opportunity to create their own final judgment of divorce, dividing the couple’s property as they see fit. The court will then hold a hearing on the default judgment and proposed final judgment of divorce, which the absent spouse will be invited to attend.
Even where the defaulting spouse doesn’t appear at the hearing, courts will still scrutinize a proposed final judgment of divorce to ensure that it is fair to both parties. Filing for a default and creating a final judgment of divorce that satisfies the court can be complex, requiring a great deal of time and effort and involving steep consequences should you make a mistake. Find an attorney early in the process to help you seek a divorce with an unresponsive or obstructive spouse to ensure that the split is as smooth and conflict-free as possible.
For assistance in seeking a divorce or fighting for child custody in New Jersey, contact Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation on your case, at 908-964-0102.