If after 10 years of being separated my ex-wife refuses to get a divorce for financial reasons, can the courts force her to sign divorce papers?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If after 10 years of being separated my ex-wife refuses to get a divorce for financial reasons, can the courts force her to sign divorce papers?

My father-in-law’s wife had an affair and moved out to move in with this other man around 10 years ago. She refuses to sign legal papers granting a divorce because she wants to make my father in law pay for her lifestyle for perpituity. My father-in-law has little money left and just wants to move on. What are his options to legally end the marriage?

Asked on November 14, 2017 under Family Law, Pennsylvania


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Your father-in-law does have legal recourse here. He can serve his wife (or serve her again) with a "complaint". She then will have the option of answereing it. If she refuses, he can still move forward with the case once the period of time in which to "answer" expires. At that time, he can proceed with what is known as a "default divorce". This is a divorce that is granted in the absence of one of the parties; it is generally granted on the terms requested. You can file for a divorce yourself; each state generally has an on-line site that contains information for this. That having been said, since child custody, visitation and support issues will be involved, you should try to obtain legal representation. Since money is an issue, he can file for the divorce himself; most states have on-line sites that give all of the information for doing so. Otherwise, your father-in-law can see if Legal Aid can assist him. If not, he can find out if there is a law school in his area; many run legal clinics that take clients for free or for reduced fees. Finally, he can check to see if his local county/state bar association has a list of attorneys who will represent clients "pro bono" (i.e. for free) based on their income/circumstances.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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