Can My Spouse Prevent Me From Getting Divorced?

Divorces, even those desired by both spouses, often grow contentious. However, if one spouse will not agree to end the marriage, or is trying to avoid the divorce, the process may stretch out longer than anticipated. If your spouse does not want to get a divorce, and takes actions to delay the process, you can still obtain a divorce – that is with some additional hurdles.

A non-cooperative spouse may make the divorce process very difficult by refusing to respond to discovery requests or refusing to engage in good faith negotiations. Doing so, may subject the non-cooperative party to sanctions by the Court. Other means to delay the divorce include avoiding service of the divorce paperwork by a constable. How a judge will handle such situations depends primarily on what state you live in. Some states will allow the divorce to proceed uncontested, disfavoring the non-responsive spouse, while others allow the spouse actively seeking the divorce to obtain a default divorce.

In Massachusetts, if the defendant spouse fails to appear for certain court hearings, such as a Case Management Conference or a Pre-Trial Conference, the Judge has the right to order the case to immediate trial that day and enter a Judgment of Divorce based on the testimony of the Plaintiff spouse. However, before doing so, the Judge will require evidence that the Defendant was served with the Complaint for Divorce, which is why the original, executed Divorce Summons is filed with the Court after service of the Complaint.  I suggest that you retain a copy of the executed summons for your files, in order to have proof of service. . Therefore, while one party may takes actions to delay the divorce process, the court will not allow absence as a valid means to avoid the proceeding.

-Christina Pashou

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