What Happens if Someone Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers in Arizona?

Key Takeaways

  • There are many rules to ensure fairness in divorce proceedings, including the requirement that both parties be aware that proceedings are in progress, which is why the filer’s spouse is served divorce papers.
  • Signatures on divorce papers are an acknowledgment but not a means of defense, meaning refusing to sign will likely not change the outcome.
  • A judge decides when a divorce is final, so technically, both parties don’t need to sign the divorce papers, but doing so can make the process quicker, smoother and more affordable for both divorcing spouses.
  • If you do not act civil in court and promptly sign divorce papers, you can face repercussions, such as losing more marital assets to your spouse, paying more money in alimony and child support or losing child custody time.

Do Both Parties Have to Sign Divorce Papers in Arizona?

Courts have established many requirements to ensure that divorce proceedings are conducted fairly. For example, both parties must be aware that divorce proceedings have begun. It would be unfair if one spouse files for divorce without the other spouse knowing. This is why divorce papers are served to the filer’s spouse—but what happens if you don’t sign the divorce papers?

In this case, signatures are an acknowledgment, not a means of defense, meaning the divorce proceedings won’t simply disappear if you refuse to sign divorce papers. A judge will decide when a divorce is final, so declining to sign the divorce papers will not change the outcome. By signing the divorce papers and cooperating with the proceedings, you can save money and time while avoiding repercussions.

Instead of testing what happens if you refuse to sign divorce papers, take advantage of the court’s other fairness-centered liberties. Both parties in the divorce are equally entitled to legal representation. The divorcing spouses and their attorneys can also provide witnesses, question witnesses and present documents supporting their arguments.

Interfering With Divorce Proceedings

Divorces can be messy, especially if one party does not want to accept the conditions of the divorce or refuses to admit that the divorce is happening altogether, which are common reasons some people choose not to sign divorce papers. Refusing to give their signature is one of many ways spouses have historically interfered with divorce proceedings.

Some other  common ways that a disruptive spouse may impede a divorce proceeding are by:

There are good and valid reasons that a party may argue for the division of marital assets, debts, child custody and child support. However, if these things are being argued just to extend the proceedings, it only complicates an already difficult situation.

Consequences of Interfering With Divorce Proceedings

Meddling with divorce proceedings can extend the process, making it more financially and emotionally draining. Divorce proceeding interference can lead to the following consequences:

  • More expensive attorney fees.
  • Added emotional trauma to yourself and your ex-spouse.

Missed opportunities to advocate for yourself during the division of assets.It is best to cooperate throughout the process to encourage affordability and a quicker recovery. It is wise to sign the divorce papers and focus on what you can control, such as securing highly qualified legal representation.

Do Both Parties Have To Sign Divorce Papers?

Although signing facilitates and expedites the proceedings, both parties do not need to sign divorce papers to get officially divorced. Refusing to sign divorce papers may prolong the process, but it will not change the outcome. In fact, if you and your spouse both live in Arizona, the petition receiver has 20 days to respond before the filer can initiate default proceedings that keep the ball rolling—this timeline is extended to 30 days if the petition receiver lives out of state.

In most legal settings, your signature is an acknowledgment, not a means of defense. For example, if someone receives a speeding ticket and does not sign the notifying document, the accompanying fine and requirement to appear in court do not go away. The same is true of the divorce decree. Under ARS 25-312, only one party is necessary to assert that a marriage is irretrievably broken for a judge to approve a divorce.

The judge decides when the divorce is final, meaning if one party refuses to sign, it will not change the final result. This is why each party should be compliant and respectful while in the middle of the proceedings.

Civil Behavior Is Important in Family Law Cases

While respect and understanding seem like obvious traits that should be displayed in a court of law, this is not always the case. Divorce is difficult for many reasons, including the emotional toll it takes on people. With overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and fear coursing through your body, it is easy to forget that all the decisions made in family law court are meant to set both parties up for success after the dissolution of their marriage.

With clouded minds, many people lose sight of their civility and act out in family law court. Failure to be punctual and exhibit civil behavior can complicate and elongate the proceedings and negatively impact the judge’s ruling.

Why Does the Judge’s Impression of Each Spouse Matter?

Although each spouse will work with their respective lawyers to decide who gets what, whatever they come up with will be presented to a judge, who makes the final decision. If you misbehave during court sessions or deliberately try to complicate the proceedings, the judge may enact   serious repercussions under statute ARS 13-2810, including:

  • Awarding more marital assets to the behaving spouse.
  • Reducing the disrespectful spouse’s child custody time, if applicable.
  • Raising how much the disrespectful spouse owes for alimony or child support, if applicable.

To avoid being viewed as less favorable by the judge, it is best to act civil and accommodating. Promptly signing divorce papers can help you avoid the repercussions above and give you the best chance to advocate for your fair share of assets and custody.

What To Do If Your Spouse Refuses To Sign Divorce Papers

Understandably, it can be frustrating if someone’s spouse purposely does not sign divorce papers—it can keep both parties locked in an unhappy marriage for slightly longer. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that their refusal to sign will not change the outcome, and a judge can still grant a divorce decree after 60 days in the state of Arizona.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to facilitate the divorce proceedings. The following recommendations have helped many divorcing spouses in the past.

Try Mediation

Many divorcing couples can benefit from an unbiased mediator facilitating their conversations. With a neutral third party expressing what they think is fair, it can be easier for spouses to claim assets and curate an agreement that they are both happy with. If both parties know they will be treated as fairly as possible, it may encourage them to cooperate and sign the divorce papers.

Avoid Blame

Arizona is a no-fault state when it comes to family law, meaning neither spouse has to prove fault to end a non-covenant marriage. Therefore, it is best to keep fault out of your divorce proceedings and discussions to ease tension and reduce hostility. Without exchanging blame, both parties may be more willing to cooperate and perform essential tasks like signing divorce papers.

Hire an Experienced Attorney

A reliable attorney can offer a lot of assistance throughout this process. For example, they can ensure your documents are filed correctly—this will save time, minimize frustration and eliminate the need to redo paperwork. Attorneys can also guarantee that your spouse has been properly served their papers.

Whether you filed for divorce or were served papers, having a trustworthy law team on your side is an excellent way to facilitate the dissolution process.

How JacksonWhite Can Help with Divorce Proceedings

If you or your spouse has been served divorce papers and there is a hesitancy to sign, just know that it won’t change the outcome, but it can complicate the proceedings, making them take more time and money. The uncooperative spouse could also experience judge-inflicted repercussions like being awarded less marital assets.

To achieve the best possible outcome in your divorce proceedings, you should sign divorce papers and promptly consult with a team of trustworthy attorneys like the JacksonWhite family law team. With over 35 years of combined experience, we approach each case as a personal investment.

We show our clients care and compassion while providing a safe environment for you and your family to progress through this difficult time. We can work with you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s attorney to ensure that both parties are satisfied with everything before the final decisions are presented to the judge.

If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Mesa, Arizona, please contact the JacksonWhite family law team online or call (480) 467-4348.

Contact Our Family Law Team

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