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Can My Spouse Refuse a Divorce?

Posted by William Bly | May 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Spouse refuse divorce

There was once a time when a spouse could refuse to divorce the other spouse and the courts would honor that decision. This is no longer the case, and although your spouse can refuse to cooperate and/or sign the divorce papers, you may still proceed with the dissolution of your marriage. If your spouse refuses to agree to the divorce, you must file what is called a “contested divorce.” Admittedly, a contested dissolution does complicate matters and often prolongs your divorce's finalization. Do not fret, though; there are things you can do to ensure that your spouse eventually honors your divorce wishes.

Approach Your Divorce Amicably

While this might seem impossible if your spouse isn't cooperating, if you can approach your divorce in an amicable manner and file for a “no-fault” dissolution as opposed to assessing blame, you might find less resistance from your soon-to-be ex. It's certainly tempting to file for a “fault” divorce, as ultimately, the court might award you more rights with respect to the children or perhaps impose a spousal support obligation on the ex-spouse. But assigning blame often leaves the other party reticent to agree to the divorce, as the accusations within the documentation he or she is required to sign are an admittance of fault, binding, and become a matter of record. Actions that constitute a fault divorce in Maine include adultery, impotence, extreme cruelty, abandonment (for three consecutive years), alcohol or drug abuse, neglect or severe mental illness. It's easy to see why one would not want to sign and, in essence, admit to any of these infractions.

Fortunately, Maine allows no-fault divorces to proceed under “irreconcilable differences,” and this approach does not assess blame, which might encourage your spouse to agree to the dissolution of your marriage. In our experience in practicing family law for over 10 years, we have found that when you avoid finger pointing, the opposing side tends to be more cooperative, and even in a no-fault divorce, you still have the right to your fair share of the marital property and support.


Mediation is often a good resource to work through your differences and come to that amicable divorce agreement. During mediation, the mediator will hear both sides of your issues and attempt to resolve the reasons why your spouse is refusing the divorce. In fact, it is the mediator's job to reach a resolution and avoid an ugly court battle, so this approach is frequently employed in an effort to reach dissolution of marriage amicably. In this forum, your spouse can explain why he or she is refusing the divorce and the mediator can attempt to resolve the concerns so your petition can move forward. This being said, there are still chances that your spouse will avoid any approach, including meetings, mediation and your divorce proceedings, thinking this will avoid the divorce, which is not the case.

Contested Divorce

If, after trying to resolve your spouse's concerns amicably, he or she still refuses to sign your divorce papers and/or mediation has failed, your case will proceed to a contested hearing on the remaining issues for divorce. After each of you has presented your case, the court will determine all terms of the divorce and finalize the dissolution of marriage. If your spouse does not show up to the hearing, the court may move forward anyway and enter findings on the record against your now, ex-spouse.

Your spouse cannot refuse a divorce, but he or she can certainly draw out the process and make it extremely difficult. Oftentimes, the reasons for refusing to sign divorce papers are a direct result of being uncomfortable with the accusations and/or terms of the agreement. These issues are easily resolved with proper counsel. The Law Office of William T. Bly has been in practice for over 10 years, and we help our clients daily by focusing on getting the results you want out of your divorce.

About the Author

William Bly

William T. Bly, Esq. is a graduate of Rutgers College where he majored in Political Science with a minor in U.S. History. Attorney Bly attended and graduated the University of Maine School of Law. During his time in law school, Attorney Bly focused on criminal defense.


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