What if my Spouse won’t Cooperate in a California Divorce?

People are confused about what to do when a spouse refuses to cooperate in a California divorce.  This comes from a misunderstanding of the role of the spouse or the respondent in the divorce.  In California, a divorce can proceed through the courts and can be finalized even if the spouse refuses to sign any papers.  In fact, the spouse does not need to sign papers at all!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Petitioner files for divorce
  2. Petitioner serves spouse–if spouse refuses to sign proof of service or does not appear to be cooperative, spouse can be served by someone over the age of 18 (not a child of the marriage) or by a process server or sheriff; in this case the person who serves, signs and dates the Proof of Service; the spouse simply receives the paperwork
  3. Spouse may not wish to respond or do anything with regard to the papers served; if this occurs and the 30 days to respond have passed, the petitioner can then file  ‘default’ paperwork with the courts
  4. If there are issues that need to be resolved, the petitioner (not the respondent) will go before the judge and he/she will usually make a decision based on what is reasonable
  5. If there are no issues to be resolved, the petitioner may not have to appear in court at all; the divorce would be finalized without an appearance

Default divorces are very common in California.  It is one way that divorces are finalized when the respondent does not wish to agree or dispute.  If the petitioner goes to court, he/she does not require an attorney because the opposing party is not in the courtroom.

However, if the non-cooperative spouse decides to respond when served, then the divorce is contested. Most contested divorces end in a trial–but not all. Even if the spouse responds, an agreement on issues can still be made. This would involve a ‘stipulated judgment’ which is simply an agreement that is prepared after the spouse responds. It’s a good idea to have the Attorney prepare this to assure that all issues are addressed and that a court appearance is avoided.

There are times when a respondent ‘responds’ when there is no need i.e. there are no issues to address. When this happens, a short agreement can be prepared and filed with the final paperwork so that the divorce can be finalized without a trial.

When you have a spouse who will not cooperate, give Legal Action Workshop a call @ 1-800-HELP-444. Our experienced Attorneys can advise you and suggest reasonable options. In addition, we offer low flat fees for divorce. Visit our website for more answers www.LegalActionWorkshopLAW.com .


ShareShare on Facebook8Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on LinkedIn0Share on TumblrPin on Pinterest0


  1. richardpinn says

    Hi my is richard I started my divorce in 2005 the defendant didn’t respond now it the statute has run out but its still in the system the court said if me and the defendant give a notarized statement stating we both still wish to go forward with the divorce the court will concider it but she won’t respond once again I have sent three certified letters requesting a statement from her she ses she’s going to do it but she keep making excuses wy she hasn’t done it . Plaese help

    • says

      Give us a call @ 1-800-HELP-444 (1-800-435-7444) to discuss. Your spouse does not need to cooperate if she did not Respond when served. If this is the case, it is a ‘default’ divorce. If this is not the case i.e. she responded, then you will need to request a trial date. We can help you…give us a call.
      Thank-you for contacting Legal Action Workshop–THE LAW FIRM THAT OFFERS LOW FLAT FEES!

    • says

      Your spouse does not need to ‘respond’. However, the court does need a proof of service. It sounds like you will need to start the divorce all over again as she is not cooperating. If she does not respond once the 30 day time frame is over, you would need to enter a ‘default’ to finalize the divorce. Please call us at 1-800-HELP-444 (1-800-435-7444) to discuss.

  2. Kelly Mulligan says

    what can you do if your spouse refuses to sign the final divorce settlement when you both waved all financials?

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      This is a good question. Is your spouse refusing to sign the Marital Settlement Agreement or Stipulated Judgment? We would need more information, but generally speaking if he does not wish to sign these documents, you may have to go to trial. If you wish to discuss, please call our offices @ 818-630-5503 Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
      Thank-you for contacting Legal Action Workshop–THE LAW FIRM THAT OFFERS LOW FLAT FEES!

  3. Ginger says

    What if my spouse will not present tax documents for our divorce? He is primary and uncooperative… And there is a protective order in place against him.

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      If you can get a copy of a recent tax return, that would be ideal. You can also guess as to what he earns. If you are requesting spousal support and/or child support then he would need to come forward with proof of earnings. It would be best to give us a call @ 1-800-HELP-444 so that we can assess your situation i.e. are you the petitioner, did the respondent respond, are you asking for temporary orders, do you have an attorney, does he have an attorney etc.?
      Thank-you for contacting Legal Action Workshop–THE LAW FIRM THAT OFFERS LOW FLAT FEES!

  4. Ken says

    What if the respondent spouse (actually non responding), has a 401k or SEP IRA or Roth IRA? Will the judge make a judgement on that also? Will I have to subpoena a report on this?
    Thank you.

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      If your spouse has not responded after the 30 day time period then you have a ‘default’ divorce and if you have issues, you will require a ‘default’ hearing before the judge. Your spouse should have been served with an ‘income & expense/assets & debts’ form that he needs to fill out. This would have the information regarding his retirement plan. If he did not fill it out, you can guess as to what is in that (you may look at a recent tax return). You may also call the plan if you have information on it. This is an issue in the divorce & the judge will need to rule on it as well as any other issues.

  5. beck says

    Please help me I am sending a certified request for divorce but spouse tells me he will not sign and I will be left “with nothing on the streets” including the second car he bought during our marriage for me (which in California is determined community property between us). I have been unemployed for more than 5 years due to a mental disability and we have been married for 3 years but lived together for 12. I don’t recieve any firm of government aid or SSI although I filed twice with my doctor’s signature AND fee. I will need this car to go back to work, even house cleaning so I can move away from him and hire a lawyer for request of temporary spousal support and lawyer/court fees. Also he is refusing to show me any of his taxes although he claims me as a dependant. Isnt this illegal? how can I obtain a copy of his taxes on my own? he is extremely verbally abusive and lying and cheating. i need to get out now for the sake of my sanity. Even pushing aside my agoraphobia so I can work to pay for these legal fees and basic shelter. please respond, I will have money soon enough.

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      It doesn’t sound like you are doing the process correctly. First, for divorce, the only dates that matter are the date of marriage and date of separation. Second, to serve the spouse (if he lives in the same state) when he is not cooperative–he should be served by a ‘process server’ or another adult. Have you spoken with an attorney so you understand the process and your legal rights? Where are you located? You may call me @ 818-630-5503 to discuss.
      Thank-you for contacting Legal Action Workshop!

  6. Andy says

    Hi I had papers served to my spouse and had proof of service registered with the court. She did not file a response. I have a pension that I can claim in about 6 years. I have also been very generous and have kept her on my insurance for her medical issues for 4 years since our separation. She has verbally said she will not go after my pension or alimony but she is on permanent disability and don’t trust her word. Not to mention she has not cooperated, filed a response, or shown up at the paralegals office that I set up for her to go to to fill out income and expense declaration. I need to get this done. Can I just claim a default divorce without fear of her getting my pension? We are in California, Placer County.

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      We don’t recommend working with a paralegal on a divorce with issues as that person cannot advise you and there is a good chance that your divorce will not be finalized. The law is very specific about pensions, retirement funds, investment funds and they are considered community property. Investments made from the date of marriage to the date of separation are divided. You would need an agreement, prepared by an attorney, which would be signed and notarized by both you and spouse in order for the court to allow the pension to not be divided. Unfortunately, a default hearing would likely not approve this.

  7. Nicole says

    I have not served my husband yet, I’ve tried talking to him about it to resolve it easily but he says he is not signing anything. Would it be best to have him personally served right off the bat to move things along quicker?

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      I assume that you have filed the petition for divorce? It sounds like he doesn’t want to be cooperative. In this case you would have him served by a process server or other adult (not a child of the marriage). Once served he has 30 days to respond. If you wish to discuss your case, give us a call @ 818-630-5503.
      Thank-you for contacting Legal Action Workshop–THE LAW FIRM THAT OFFERS LOW FLAT FEES!

    • Brenda Platt-Drucker says

      If the petitioner does not proceed and serve you, then you may go to the court, get a copy of the petition and then file a response. The case will then proceed by trial or by agreement if possible. If this case is in CA and you need help…give us a call @ 1-800-HELP-444.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *