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What can you do if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers?

Original Publish Date: July 15, 2019

Revised: September 15th, 2022

Unfortunately, marriages break down, and in some cases, one spouse may refuse to agree to a divorce. They may not accept that the relationship is over. While others may believe, getting divorced conflicts with their beliefs.

Under Canadian laws, you don’t need to get your spouse’s consent to get a divorce. 

Getting your spouse to sign the divorce papers will likely make the process simpler, but if that’s not possible, here are some options.

Prove the breakdown of the marriage

If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers and give consent, you must prove the breakdown of the marriage, such as adultery or physical/mental cruelty. If you can show evidence of this when the court hears your divorce application, then you may be granted a divorce.

You can’t locate your spouse

If you are filing for a divorce, but you’re unable to locate or don’t know where your spouse is to get them to sign papers, you may still be able to obtain a divorce. 

You need to show the court you have attempted to find your spouse. If you cannot locate them, you may be able to apply for a court order to divorce. 

Before the court grants you a divorce, you must prove that you’ve done everything possible to find your spouse.

Uncontested Divorce

We often get the question, can you still get a divorce if your spouse won’t sign?

This would be related to what’s called an uncontested divorce, meaning the spouse that has been served the paperwork, has not provided any signature or feedback during the designated timeline. 

At the end of the time limit, the spouse who applied for the divorce may ask the court to grant it, based on the fact that the other spouse had the opportunity to oppose it and has not. 

The court then assumes that the other spouse either agrees with the divorce or does not have an opinion.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is when your spouse disagrees on some or all the issues raised with the separation.

If you are filing, you must sign the divorce papers and formally notify the other spouse of the actions by serving the divorce papers.

This means that the other spouse is told and is given a chance to dispute the allegations the applicant has made, or make claims of his/her own. 

A contested divorce could also be when a spouse denies that the couple is eligible for a divorce.

When to get professional legal help

While you don’t need a divorce lawyer to apply for a divorce, it’s always best to speak with an experienced legal professional before you start the process.

A family lawyer and divorce specialist can help you work out the best possible outcome specific to your circumstances. 

How long can a spouse extend a divorce?

There is no deadline on divorce, so your spouse could delay the process for months and even years depending on the circumstances of your situation.

However, you don’t have to sit around while your spouse takes their time. 

With the help of a lawyer, you can request a court hearing to address these issues.

Since the delay is not because of your doing: 

  • You could also request attorney’s fees from your spouse
  • Should they disobey court orders, a judge may file contempt of court charges against your spouse. The thought of potentially going to jail may encourage your spouse to comply with the process.

This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.