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What Happens if Your Spouse Never Responds to the Divorce Papers They Were Served?

When you finally reach the last straw and decide to serve your spouse with divorce papers, there’s a huge sense of relief that follows. But this sense of relief can be short-lived if, like many obstinate spouses, yours does not respond to the divorce papers in any way. They have not signed and returned the papers, and they refuse to communicate with you about the divorce that you so desperately want.

This situation can be incredibly frustrating and emotional, but it’s important that you take a deep breath and maintain your composure. Here’s what will happen—and what you need to do next.

Make sure the papers were legally served.

Simply dropping off the papers at your spouse’s residence, mailing them to your spouse, or giving them to a friend to deliver does not legally count as “serving them” in most jurisdictions. In most cases, either you or a police officer need to have legally handed the papers to your spouse in order for them to be considered served.

If this is not how you provided your spouse with the papers, then you need to obtain a new copy of the divorce papers and contact your local police station to have them formally served. Otherwise, your spouse could just argue that they never saw the papers—and there’s no proof otherwise.

File for a motion to proceed without your spouse’s participation.

Once your spouse has been properly served with divorce papers, he or she has 20 days to respond by signing the papers and turning them into the court. On day 21, if your spouse has not responded, you can file a motion to proceed with the divorce in your spouse’s absence. You’ll typically need to go to your county courthouse to do this. They may process your motion that day, or you may need to schedule a court date and have a judge approve your motion to proceed in your spouse’s absence.

The divorce proceedings will go on without your spouse.

Once your motion to proceed has been approved, it will be too late for your spouse to participate—even if he or she changes their mind. You and your attorney will present all of your information, financial and otherwise, to the court. Your spouse may be subpoenaed to provide certain info, but he or she will not get the chance to “argue their side” in divorce court. The judge will decide, based on your testimony and the information provided, how the assets should be fairly split and who should be awarded custody of the children.

If your spouse has not replied to your divorce papers, don’t get too worried. As long as you apply for a motion to continue without your spouse, your case can be heard—and the judge will make a fair decision based on your testimony only. Learn more by contacting attorneys through firms like Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP.