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; 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.


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