Does A Spouse Have To Agree To A Divorce?
Divorces are not always a result of a mutual decision by both spouses to dissolve their marriage. In some cases, one spouse may decide to get separated and eventually file for divorce. When this happens, the other spouse may be hurt and unsure of how to move forward, and sometimes, wish to stop the divorce process even after a petition has been filed. While the spouse who does not want a divorce can try to talk to the other spouse about reconciliation, legally, there is nothing the spouse can do to stop the other from getting a divorce.
Both spouses do not have to agree to a divorce in order for a Florida court to grant the divorce. Only one person needs to file a divorce petition, and can simply allege irreconcilable differences or that the marriage is irrevocably broken, as a reason for the divorce. When the couple is in agreement, a divorce can usually proceed faster than it would if one person doesn’t want the divorce. The court can make a ruling after twenty days of the filing.
Generally, when one spouse files for divorce, the next step is for the other spouse is expected to file an “answer,” which is a legal document in which the person responds to whatever the other person alleged in the petition for divorce. For a couple that has agreed to divorce, they may file a joint petition, which would not need an answer.
If a person receives divorce papers with the initial petition and refuses to file an answer, it does not mean the divorce cannot proceed. After some time, the court can grant a default judgment to the petitioning spouse, which means the divorce can be finalized without the consent of the other spouse.
For a default judgment to be granted, it is important that the non-filing spouse receive adequate notice of the divorce, as well as of the hearing in which the judge decides whether to grant the default judgment. A failure to serve the other spouse with proper notice means that the court cannot grant the default judgment. So the filing spouse cannot simply fail to notify the other spouse, perhaps fearing that spouse will file an answer or prolong the divorce, and expect a default judgment.
Serving the non-filing spouse with divorce papers personally, by registered mail, or by a process server, is usually sufficient to prove the other spouse was given notice of the divorce proceedings. Personal service would be harder to prove in court. In some rare cases where the whereabouts of the non-filing spouse are unknown, notice can be done by publication in a widely circulated newspaper. For this last option, permission to give notice in this manner would be required from the court beforehand.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you received divorce papers, or a notice from your spouse informing you that he or she has filed for divorce, you need to get legal assistance as soon as possible. Ignoring the filing or divorcing proceedings will not stop the divorce, and may affect your rights. Call us at the Law Offices of Schwartz l White to speak to a compassionate and experienced divorce attorney who can advise you on your next step.