Divorce is rarely a simple process even with the best intentions, so it is not unusual that there may be objections or stalling for time by the other party, and possible unusual challenges, such as locating them to notify them of your intention.
Often the question arises about what will happen if the other party refuses to cooperate in a standard divorce. A short answer is that — in Georgia — as long as you have filed in the proper jurisdiction, to the correct court, with the appropriate papers, and did perfect service of process, you can obtain a divorce without your spouse’s cooperation. Things may not always be that simple, but there are ways of handling problems, such as:.
What if my spouse refuses to cooperate?
When a Complaint of Divorce is first initiated, and papers are given to your spouse either by the sheriff or a process server, the spouse has 30 days to file an Answer to the court. If the spouse refuses to file an Answer within that time frame, the spouse is no longer entitled to notice of any further filing dates or hearings. You can move directly to the finalization hearing date. You will need a good attorney to draft the proper documents and court orders, and to obtain the appropriate hearing to finalize the matter. Your spouse cannot stop you.
What if I can’t find my spouse?
A similar situation comes into play when you cannot locate your spouse or you know where the spouse is, but can’t reach them. In earlier times, a notice of the intent to divorce would be published in local newspapers where the spouse was suspected to be, and this would be considered sufficient. But suppose your spouse is somewhere in Asia and you are uncertain of the location. Divorce by Publication can continue if the person has been reasonably searched for. However, this type of divorce limits the settlement. Custody is possible only if the children’s ‘Home State’ (legal term) is Georgia, and settlement is also limited to property located within Georgia.
What if my spouse has been cooperating in an uncontested divorce, but then refuses to sign the settlement agreement?
There are three options with an uncontested divorce in Georgia:
- You can bring a motion to enforce the settlement agreement that you two had been working on. Then it will be binding despite repudiation.
- If your spouse contests this, you could proceed to a court trial.The settlement agreement will be thrown out and replaced with a judge’s decision. It would be a long and expensive process, with witnesses and evidence brought in. However, in most cases where Shaw Law is involved, we would try to have the settlement reinforced first. If the court will enforce the settlement agreement, then the divorce is completed.
- If the spouse refuses to sign and a trial is more advantageous to you, your attorney can respond with a motion to enforce, at which time it will go to court. This is where having an experienced divorce attorney is important.
Scott Shaw is founder and principal of Shaw Law Firm PC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm has offices in Dunwoody/Sandy Springs and serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today or call us at 770-594-8309.