Can my spouse stop me from getting a divorce?

by Jun 25, 2021Uncategorized

If you’ve talked to your spouse a getting a divorce but he or she threatens to prevent it, rest assured that they cannot stop it from happening. They might be able to drag it out, but one spouse cannot force the other to stay in a marriage that’s no longer working for them.

Why would a spouse try to prevent a divorce?

There are probably as many reasons as there are marriages. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • They feel the marriage is worth saving and want to work on the relationship
  • They’re worried about the impact on the kids 
  • Financial concerns about supporting two separate households
  • A divorce may make them feel like they’ve failed
  • Loss of identity, family, or friends
  • Because they took a vow they don’t want to break, or religious or other reasons or beliefs

Whatever their reasons may be, and there may be more than one reason, they do not have to agree to a divorce for you to file for one.

Is counseling required?

Not in Ohio. It’s worth considering at the very least, assuming both parties are willing to put in the work, but the state of Ohio does not require you to seek counseling before getting a divorce. Other states, however, may require it, so it’s important you know the laws in your state.

How do I start the process without cooperation?

All that is required in Ohio is for one party to file a complaint for divorce. The complaint must specify if you are seeking a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce. A no-fault divorce has the benefit of not placing the blame for the divorce on either party, and most people choose to go this route. No-fault grounds can include living a part for year, of living incompatibly.

However, there are valid reasons you should seek a fault-based divorce.  Although used rarely, Ohio law does recognize these common grounds for divorce, among others:

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Gross neglect
  • Habitual drunkenness/addiction
  • Abandonment

After the complaint is filed, you will need to serve your spouse with a copy of all the divorce documents. There are several ways this process can take place, usually via certified mail or a process server, but you will not be required to do this step yourself. 

Contested vs. Uncontested divorces

Typically, your spouse will be required to respond to the divorce complaint within 28 days to raise their own issues and concerns. That’s the smart move to ensure that their competing interests are represented. This is fairly standard, and it’s called a contested divorce. A contested divorce doesn’t necessarily mean things will get ugly; it just means there is some level of disagreement on at least one of the terms in the divorce complaint. 

Occasionally, the other party may not answer the complaint. This leads to an uncontested divorce. It doesn’t mean they can stop the process from happening by avoiding it. It just means there will be no arguments over assets, money, property, or custody. In an uncontested divorce, the judge will usually award the divorce as-is, granting you the terms that you and your attorney filed in the complaint. Keep in mind that even if the divorce is uncontested, the judge does have the discretion to make changes as he or she see fit.

Assuming the divorce is contested, the next step forward is a hearing. If you and your spouse are not in agreement, then the court will decide on issues like spousal support, child support, marital property, retirement, assets, etc. The court gets the final say and will lay out the terms for you in your divorce decree.

What if my spouse refuses to cooperate?

As much as the other party might try to sabotage the divorce or prevent it from happening, they cannot. They may delay the process for a while by refusing to sign documents and not showing up for court, but the divorce will proceed, one way or another. You do not need your spouse’s signature or consent. And if your spouse does try to delay the process by not showing up for court hearings, they may be held in contempt of court. Likewise, if they fail to follow the terms in the final divorce decree, they can be held in contempt of court. They will have legal problems if they fail to cooperate with the court’s orders. Luckily, this is not commonly seen, but the court will support you in the event that it happens.

The bottom line

It is possible to get a divorce without the consent of your spouse, but it may make for a long and complicated process. However, if you feel that getting a divorce is necessary, you’ll need to ensure that you are following the local and state rules to help make the process as smooth as possible. It’s best at this point to seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney.

If your spouse is being uncooperative and you want to proceed with a divorce anyway, call the family law experts at Kirkland & Sommers. We’ll schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and help you devise a game plan. Remember, no one can stop you from getting a divorce if that is what you want!

Contact us today by clicking the link below.