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Can Your Spouse Prevent Your Divorce by Refusing to Sign the Papers?

Posted on in Divorce

Farmington Hills divorce process attorneyIn the rom-com movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” Melanie (played by Reese Witherspoon) wants a divorce, but Jake (Josh Lucas) has refused to sign the papers for seven years. While Hollywood movies are not always known for their realism, this particular plot point may leave many wondering: could a resistant spouse really hold up a divorce proceeding for that long, just by refusing to sign a piece of paper?

In Michigan, you may be relieved to know, the short answer is “no.” If one spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse cannot prevent it. If your spouse refuses to participate in the process, your divorce can be finalized within a matter of months. 

Signatures Required for a Michigan Divorce

There are several points in the Michigan divorce process when legal documents have to be signed. But there is also a defined process for what happens if one spouse refuses to participate in the process. Here is how that works:

To start the divorce process, you (or rather, your attorney) will file a divorce complaint with the local circuit court. The divorce complaint spells out your preferred terms for the divorce: division of property, child custody, etc. You may be in a hurry to get divorced, but you should take the time to get these terms right. Your future financial security and the well-being of your children are at stake.

The divorce complaint, along with a court summons form, is then delivered to your spouse. Ideally, your spouse signs the summons form to indicate their receipt of the divorce papers, but proof of service can be provided to the court even without such signature.

If your spouse wants to contest any of the terms of the divorce in the divorce complaint, they have 21 to 28 days to deliver their response to the court. 

If your spouse does not respond to the divorce complaint by the deadline,  you can ask the circuit court for a default judgment of divorce. However, your divorce cannot be finalized until the mandatory waiting period has passed.

For marriages without children, there is a required 60-day waiting period between the time the divorce complaint is filed and when the court will issue a final judgment of divorce (sometimes called the divorce decree or divorce settlement). When children are involved, the waiting period is 180 days (six months), although this period may be shortened in some cases.

At the end of the waiting period, the court will issue the requested default judgment, and your divorce will be final. The judge’s signature is sufficient. Your spouse does not need to sign it. 

The terms of the divorce will be those laid out in the original divorce complaint, as long as those terms comply with Michigan law. For example, parenting arrangements must be in the children’s best interests, and the division of marital property must be equitable.

Consult an Experienced Livonia Divorce Attorney

If you are concerned that your spouse may be unwilling to participate in your divorce proceeding or may try to unreasonably drag out the process, contact an Oakland County divorce lawyer for assistance. The partners of Elkouri Heath PLC each have 20+ years of experience in the Michigan family court system, along with specific training in mediation and collaborative law. We have brought hundreds of divorces to timely, successful conclusions, and we stand ready to do the same for you. Call Elkouri Heath PLC at 248-344-9700 for a free consultation. 

Sources:

https://www.oakgov.com/courts/foc/Pages/info_pub/divorceoverview.aspx

https://www.3rdcc.org/videos-on-filing-for-divorce

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(e2kh4bwwspq0vnmxkvjomscp))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-R-S-1846-552-1-84-DIVORCE

Oakland County Bar Association State Bar of Michigan Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan WCCDBA Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan
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