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Do I Have to Sign my Divorce Papers?





Divorce and separation are never easy. In many cases, one party does not want the divorce to happen and wishes to stay married. When they receive the divorce papers, they may think they can ignore them or not sign them and then there will be no divorce. However, in California, that is not the case and avoiding divorce papers will not save the marriage.





Divorce in California





The two former partners are the two parties in a divorce. Generally, one will file for divorce from the other with or without a reason. This party is called the petitioner. The person who receives the divorce papers, the spouse who did not file for divorce, is called the respondent. Usually, the divorce papers include stipulations on things like dividing property, child custody, and spousal support.





In some states, reasons like infidelity or fraud must be provided to the court before a divorce is granted. However, California is a no-fault state. This means that the petitioner does not have to provide a reason for the divorce from the respondent.





It also means that the courts will not use the reason for the split, even infidelity, as a way to determine how to divide assets and other issues such as child custody and child support. There are of course some exceptions to this including domestic violence, child abuse, or hiding assets from the other spouse during divorce proceedings.





In California, there are two types of divorce when it comes to disagreements: uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce means that there are no disagreements between the former spouses. If the respondent spouse receives the divorce papers and has no objections, then the divorce will be uncontested.





A contested divorce is when the respondent spouse does not agree to the terms in the divorce papers. This can be a dispute on one issue or it could be a disagreement about the whole document itself.





What if I Don’t Agree with the Terms in my Divorce Papers?





As mentioned above, it is a contested divorce if you don’t agree to the terms of your divorce. You do have options if this is the case. First, you can try talking to your former partner and discuss what issues you have with their requests.





This can be helpful if the divorce is not bitter and neither side is angry at the other. It may be possible to get them to change some parts of their demands or come to a different agreement.  





You can also try mediation if you cannot reach an agreement on all of the terms of the divorce. Mediation is where both you and your partner meet with a neutral third-party to try to come to a settlement agreement. You may have your lawyer present in this meeting to help advocate for your rights. The mediator does not make the final decision. Rather, both sides agree to the final terms of the divorce.





The divorce will more than likely go to court if the partners cannot come to a final agreement on their own. To make this happen, one party will need to file with the court and request a trial date.





Many jurisdictions require a settlement meeting between the two parties before the trial. If they still cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, the case will go to court where the judge will hear both sides and make a final judgment.    





So, What Happens If I Don’t Sign the Divorce Papers?





If your partner files for divorce and you receive the papers, you have 30 days to respond. This is important because the divorce will become final even if you do not sign the papers or respond. This is true even if you do not agree to the terms.





If you do agree to the terms, you can either sign a notarized document stating that you do not have any disagreements or you can wait out the 30 days. It is known as a default or uncontested divorce if you respond to the divorce papers with a notarized letter saying you have no objections.





Once the 30 days have passed, your former partner can file a request for the judge to order a default judgment. The judge will more than likely grant a dissolution of your marriage if there are no discrepancies in your former spouse’s request. This means that not signing divorce papers may delay the divorce process for 30 days but it will not stop it completely.


Puja Sachdev

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