Marriage is a two-person process, but divorce only takes one. California is a no-fault divorce state, so you can choose to end your marriage at any time, for any reason, regardless of what your spouse prefers. This protects people from being trapped in marriages they no longer want.
While only one person’s consent is necessary to end a marriage, an uncooperative spouse can complicate the process. If your partner refuses to communicate with you, it may be necessary to use other means to keep your divorce moving forward. Below, we discuss the difficulties when divorcing a partner who will not communicate and how to ensure your divorce is finalized in a timely fashion.
The Complications Posed by Incommunicative Spouses
Unless you have been married for a very short period, have few assets, and no children, your divorce must address issues like joint property, child custody, and support. California divorce laws protect both spouses in these matters. One way they accomplish this is by requiring the spouse filing for divorce to notify the other by delivering the paperwork and requesting they return a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt form.
This is usually simple to accomplish. Most people will sign the papers to begin the legal process, even in deeply adversarial divorces. However, in rare cases, one partner will refuse to engage in the proceedings entirely. Some people go so far as to leave home and cease communication with their spouse completely. In these situations, receiving their signature on the papers becomes a significant hurdle to moving forward. You may need to pursue other options to demonstrate to the court that you have performed your due diligence in notifying your partner.
How to Move Your Divorce Forward Despite Your Spouse’s Lack of Cooperation
California law acknowledges that some people may attempt to stall or block a divorce petition by refusing to respond. The laws provide multiple solutions if your partner will not sign the paperwork. You may consult with an experienced divorce attorney to determine which of the following solutions will best for your situation and allow you to proceed with your marital dissolution.
Work With a Process Server
If you struggle to acquire your spouse’s confirmation of your divorce petition, you may hire a process server. Process servers are legal messengers who take on the task of delivering legal documents according to California state law. Your process server will determine your spouse’s location and deliver the papers to them directly. They will document that your spouse received the papers and put together an affidavit of service to give to the court. This will stand in place of the formal Acknowledgement of Receipt your spouse would normally sign.
Process servers offer significant benefits in cases when one spouse refuses to communicate or has disappeared. They have considerable experience seeking out people who may not want to receive legal paperwork and ensuring that the documents are received. Furthermore, by providing a Proof of Service form, they confirm that your spouse cannot claim that they were not notified of the proceedings. Should your partner choose to dispute the final divorce decree on the grounds that they were not involved in the process, the Proof of Service will demonstrate that they were aware the divorce was ongoing and chose not to participate.
Demonstrate Informal Acknowledgement
If the process server cannot find your spouse, you may be able to demonstrate their informal acknowledgment instead. An informal acknowledgment does not mean your spouse approves or consents to the divorce. It is simply proof that your spouse is aware that you seriously intended to file for divorce.
Informal acknowledgment may take many forms. Examples include text messages and emails about your plans or social media posts about your impending divorce. These types of written proof can be provided to the court in lieu of a formal Proof of Service or Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt. The court will determine if the evidence is strong enough to satisfy the acknowledgment requirement and initiate the proceedings.
Post Notices Publicly
If the process server is unable to locate your spouse, and you cannot prove an informal acknowledgement, California law permits you to request to serve your spouse by publication. This is the process of publishing the court papers in a public newspaper where your partner is likely to be. Should the court grant your request, you must have the newspaper publish the court papers once a week for four subsequent weeks.
This process makes the papers hard for your spouse to miss. The court assumes that after four weeks, the other party has had more than adequate time to discover that they are being served. If they fail to respond after you demonstrate that you have had the papers published for four weeks, the court will consider your spouse to have been adequately notified and permit the proceedings to begin.
In most cases, notice by publication is not necessary. Your attorney will help you determine whether to pursue this path instead of demonstrating informal acknowledgment or working with a process server.
Finalize Your Divorce With Expert Legal Help
If your spouse refuses to communicate with you, they make it difficult to prove their rights are respected. Without their signature, you will need to work with an experienced divorce attorney to keep your dissolution of marriage on track.
At Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP, we are prepared to help you pursue your divorce regardless of your spouse’s behavior. We have years of experience assisting clients with dissolving their marriages in varying circumstances. Whether your spouse has disappeared or refuses to sign the paperwork, we will work closely with you to develop a personalized legal strategy to ensure your divorce moves forward unimpeded. Call (650) 590-1117 or email us to schedule your consultation and learn how we can guide you through even the most complex family law problems.