What happens if my husband files for divorce and I don’t sign the paper?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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What happens if my husband files for divorce and I don’t sign the paper?

My husband and I were married in Washington DC. Although we are considering divorce we thought we would try to make it work one last time. He suggested starting the divorce paperwork so there is no delay if it does not work out. He said he will file, serve me the papers and then if we work out he would not file the consent form. Can he behind my back finish the divorce process without my written consent? My marriage has been plagued with cheating and lies. I just want to make sure that he can’t file the paperwork without my consent.

Asked on August 17, 2019 under Family Law, District of Columbia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you are served with papers, you have to respond to them within the time frame required by the court rules: if you don't, then you will "default" and he will get the divorce, and the court will decide alimony, asset distribution, etc. without your consent. So even if you trust him and even if you and he are good faith trying to work things out, if served with legal papers, you *must* respond as if you are contesting it to protect your rights.
That said, what he says sounds like he is trying to trick you so that you don't respond and he can get the divorce without your opposition--otherwise, why would he file a case while discouraging you from responding? First, there's no reason to not wait to file until after you try to work it out and see that it doesn't work--the delay is not that great, and what is he in such a hurry to do post-divorce that he cannot stand a little delay?; and second, even if he felt like, to avoid losing time or delays, he must file now, he should not be discouraging you responding to it--you can respond, state your position, and if you and he do work things, the case can be dropped or dismissed at any time before the divorce being granted. What he suggests seems designed to make you not protect your rights.

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