How to Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse

Many spouses who decide to terminate their marriage are interested in how to get a divorce immediately without extra effort and stress. Ending a marriage immediately after filing with the court is mostly impossible; however, a quick and easy marriage dissolution is available in uncontested cases when both parties agree on all the divorce terms. The process becomes more complicated if one of the spouses refuses to cooperate or their location is unknown.

Here are some of the most typical questions the divorcing spouses may have:

Can I file for divorce without my spouse? Yes, you can file for marriage dissolution regardless of whether the other party consents in all states, including Texas.

Can I get a divorce without my spouse knowing? If you fail to find the other spouse or they ignore the petition, it is quite possible they will not know timely that you intend to end the marriage. However, you cannot finalize the divorce until you notify the other party, using all possible means, that you have initiated the case.

Can I divorce without my spouse? If your spouse does not respond or cannot be found, you can proceed with the default divorce process. In other words, you can have your marriage dissolved even if the other party is against or avoids participating in the procedure.

In this article, we will discuss the specifics of divorce without the other spouse’s consent or participation.

Do Both Spouses Have to Agree to Divorce?

In Texas, including Harris County, you can file for divorce and finalize the process no matter whether your spouse agrees or disagrees to terminate the marriage.

The respondent may refuse to participate in the procedure or avoid cooperation. Nevertheless, divorce without a spouse’s signature on the Final Decree of Divorce but approved by the court is as valid as any other marriage dissolution.

How you go through a divorce without consent of the other party depends on the case-specific circumstances. If your spouse avoids negotiating with you on the terms but takes part in the process, you will need to attend several court hearings to resolve disputes regarding the assets division and child-related issues. If the respondent ignores filing a response to the initial paperwork or cannot be found, you can finalize the divorce without their participation.

So, can you divorce someone without their consent? Yes, you can file for divorce even if the other party opposes your decision. Your main responsibilities are to meet the residency requirements in the state and serve the defendant with the necessary papers. To file for divorce in Harris County, one of you must have been its resident for 90 days at minimum and have lived in Texas for at least 6 months.

Reasons People Divorce Without Their Spouse’s Consent

There are many reasons for divorce without the other party’s consent. Some of the most common include the situations when:

  • Spouses have lived separately for a long time and/or a petitioner does not know where a respondent resides.
  • A responding party ignores all attempts to discuss the divorce terms and come to an agreement.
  • One spouse worries about their or their children’s lives because of the other party’s aggressive behavior.
  • One spouse is against divorce.

In Texas, one spouse can file for divorce regardless of the reason to start the process without the other party’s consent. However, this way of ending a marriage can be longer.

In a divorce by mutual agreement, one of the spouses submits papers to the clerk’s office to initiate the divorce. If the case is uncontested, the defendant can sign an Answer or Waiver of Service form to receive the papers without being officially served.

If your spouse does not agree to terminate the marriage or opposes divorce terms, they may refuse to put their signature on the service waiver form. Can you get a divorce without the other person signing it? Yes, you can. In this case, you need to send the paperwork to the respondent in one of the ways allowed by the state.

What Kind of Divorce Should You File For?

In Texas, you may file for a fault-based or no-fault divorce. The latter is more cost- and time-efficient. According to no-fault divorce laws, you do not necessarily need to claim that the other party caused the end of your marital relationship, prove their fault, and go into details of your family life problems. Texas laws recognize two no-fault grounds for divorce, namely, insupportability, which means a conflict of personalities that prevents the continuation of the marriage, and separate residence for at least 3 years.

Filing papers for a no-fault divorce does not guarantee that it will not be contested; it depends on the other party’s actions.

Uncontested divorce without a spouse’s signature on the Final Decree of Divorce is possible if they do not respond to the petition, so the case will be continued by default. If the judge has no objections, the result of marriage termination will likely be based on the terms you specified in the divorce decree.

If you file for an uncontested divorce, but your spouse submits a counterclaim after receiving the papers, your dissolution will become contested. As such, you will have to attend numerous trials and resolve disagreements about the divorce terms with the judge’s intervention.

So, if the other party does not agree to the divorce and contests the property division or child custody issues, your case will be contested. If their location is unknown or they ignore the process, you can finalize the divorce as uncontested.

How to File for Divorce Without Your Spouse’s Consent?

To start the divorce process, you should meet the state residency requirements, prepare the initial paperwork, and file it with the court. The list of necessary forms depends on specific circumstances and may vary from case to case.

The stages to go through do not differ significantly for situations when a petitioner hasn’t seen their spouse in years or when a respondent simply refuses to cooperate. The main difference is in the methods of serving the papers to the other party.

  • First, you must complete the initial forms, including the Original Petition for Divorce, Civil Case Information Sheet, and others. After you fill out the papers, you should file them with the county court clerk’s office in person or e-file them through an electronic system.
  • Then, you need to notify the other party that you have filed a lawsuit, which can be fulfilled in several ways. You can ask a constable, sheriff, private process server, or other person authorized by the court to hand over the divorce papers in person or by registered mail. Once the documents are delivered, the process server must provide proof of legal notice by filing a completed Return of Service form with the court.
  • After that, the respondent has about 20 days to file an answer or counterclaim to the petition. If they respond, you can move on to the next stage of the procedure; if not, you may ask the court to proceed with the case by default.

Can you get a divorce without the other person signing the papers when they are served? The short answer is yes. When receiving the paperwork, your spouse does not have to sign anything; they only have to obtain the documents.

If the respondent cannot be found to hand over the papers, you can resort to one of the additional methods of service. These may include serving the defendant by posting, publication, and even social media or other technology (Tex. R. Civ. P. 106). Still, you should get the court’s permission before using such methods.

  • Service by Publication in a Newspaper

Notifying the defendant about divorce in a newspaper is available for cases that involve minor children or community property. Divorce by publication presupposes publishing a notice in a local newspaper or statewide public information website.

  • Service by Posting in a Courthouse

Although this method is not very common, in Texas, you can notify your spouse of a divorce by posting the notice at the courthouse. It is admissible if you are divorcing a missing spouse, you have no community property together and children under 18, and neither of you is pregnant.

  • Service by Social Media

With the court’s permission, any defendant who has a social media account can be notified about the start of the divorce process through it. This method is allowed in exceptional cases and authorized under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 17.033.

You can ask the court to try one of the alternative methods of serving the defendant by filing a Motion for Substituted Service, provided you have previously made efforts to find the other party.

After the posting or publication, you should wait for the defendant to respond. The next steps of your divorce will depend on whether they answer the petiton and what their response is.

If the other party eventually agrees to settle the divorce terms, you can both sign and file a Final Decree of Divorce with the court. If they submit a counterclaim, your marriage dissolution will be contested and heard in court. If there is no response, your divorce can be finalized by default.

Can you get a divorce without your spouse’s signature? Yes, you can obtain a divorce regardless of whether your spouse signs a final divorce decree, whether your case is contested, and whether you can find the respondent. You can file for divorce in Texas even if you do not have the other party’s consent.

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