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What Happens if Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers

If your spouse won’t sign divorce papers in Illinois, the dissolution of your marriage is still possible. If time, space, and/or mediation efforts are ineffective, your divorce lawyer will explain your legal options and help you proceed with a default judgment for the dissolution of your marriage. 

Do Both Spouses Have to Agree to Divorce in Illinois?

Both spouses don’t necessarily have to agree to get a divorce for the divorce to take place. Generally, even if one spouse doesn’t want to go through with the divorce, the opposing spouse may still be able to complete the process. 

Illinois takes measures to prevent spouses from avoiding divorce proceedings or refusing to respond to petitions. However, the divorce process can become lengthy and more complex if a spouse won’t agree to a “no-fault” reason for divorce. Your divorce lawyer can guide you through how to file for divorce in Illinois if your spouse doesn’t agree.

Irreconcilable differences are the only grounds for divorce recognized in Illinois. Irreconcilable differences means you and your spouse are unable to resolve the issues in your marriage. If your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers because he or she denies that you are incompatible, showing the court that you have lived separately for at least six months can create the presumption of incompatibility.

Why Some Spouses Refuse to Sign Divorce Papers

Spouses refuse to sign divorce papers for various reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • Religious reasons
  • Denial
  • Fear of judgment 
  • Fear of financial instability
  • Domestic abuse

Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse Knowing?

While you can hire a divorce lawyer and even file for divorce without your spouse knowing, your divorce cannot be finalized until you make a reasonable attempt to serve your spouse with divorce papers, or at least notify him or her about the proceedings. 

What Happens if You Are Unable to Serve the Other Spouse?

If you don’t know how to contact your spouse, you must make reasonable efforts to locate him or her. If your efforts are unsuccessful, you may be able to serve your spouse through publication in a newspaper. In these cases, defaulting the other spouse is known as “default by publication.”

To complete this process, spouses will need to let the missing spouse know that they are seeking a divorce in a formal publication, such as a local newspaper. Before getting a divorce by publication, individuals must complete and file an affidavit with the clerk that shows that the other spouse is unreachable. Following this step, the petitioning spouse may publish the divorce notice in a newspaper sold in the location where the petitioner is filing.

In these instances, judges may also ask the petitioning spouse how they searched for the other spouse. The spouse should be able to list various sources, including the other spouse’s family members and online platforms such as Google listings and Facebook profiles.

Can You Get a Default Divorce if Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers?

After you have served your spouse through traditional service or by an approved alternative method, your spouse typically has 30 days to respond. He or she can respond by filing an appearance form or agreeing or disagreeing with the terms of the divorce. If your spouse fails to respond, you are allowed to proceed on a motion to default your spouse. There are a series of steps you must follow to obtain a default divorce in Illinois.

Request for Default Divorce

If 30 days have passed since you served your spouse, and he or she did not respond, you can file a motion to hold your spouse in default. You must notify your spouse of the motion by sending it to the same address where you served the divorce petition and accompanying summons. 

Scheduling a Hearing

The next step will entail the court setting a date for the hearing and notifying the other spouse of this court date. However, the court may not be able to provide notification to the other spouse if they are unable to locate a specific address where the spouse lives.

Final Review

During the hearing, the court will take a look at the terms of the divorce petition. Judges may ask you certain questions regarding the nature of the divorce. Following this review, the judges will make a final decision and issue a ruling. In most cases, Illinois judges will rule in favor of the petitioning spouse when the other spouse fails to respond. This means that you will likely get everything you asked for when you filed the divorce petition, including the terms of:

What If My Spouse Doesn’t Follow The Default Judgment?

If your spouse does not follow the default judgment, you can file a motion that your spouse be held in contempt. If the court finds that your spouse is in contempt, the judge may issue a body attachment. This is a civil order of arrest. Once arrested, your spouse will be brought before the judge, where he or she must give reasons for the violation(s). 

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He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois.

Years of Experience: Approx. 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illiois Courts Northern District of Illinois Federal Courts Illinois State Bar Association Chicago Bar Association

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