Going through the legal divorce process in Texas is never pleasant. Even the smoothest divorces take longer than anyone wants and cost more money than anyone wants to spend. And that’s a situation where both spouses are playing nice.
But what happens when one person refuses to participate in the divorce?
It doesn’t matter what you do or say – your spouse won’t respond to your petition for divorce, discuss any important details, sign the necessary paperwork, or even attend court proceedings. This kind of behavior can turn an already regrettable situation into a difficult cycle of frustration and resentment.
If things get bad enough, one option is to file a request to enter default divorce. Learn when this is the best option in your given situation.
What Is a Default Divorce?
The first thing that happens when you file for divorce is you serve your spouse with a divorce petition. This document gives them 20 days to respond to your lawsuit to dissolve the marriage. The next steps in the legal process cannot happen until they respond.
However, this is the first of many junctures where your spouse can forestall or even ignore the divorce process. The good news is that the court doesn’t look kindly on people who show contempt for the legal process. This gives you the opportunity to petition a judge to enter a default judgment against your spouse.
Typically, a judge may entertain a motion for default judgment in a divorce case if your spouse has missed a deadline by a significant window or has displayed a pattern of missing deadlines.
Unfortunately, no matter how egregious your spouse’s actions have been, the earliest any divorce can be dissolved in Texas is 60 days after it was filed. If your spouse responds before that time is up, even if they’re late, you will be unable to request to enter default divorce.
However, there are many motions and required responses throughout the divorce proceedings, and any late response can potentially be grounds for a default divorce.
What Justifies a Default Divorce?
The court usually prefers not to declare a default divorce as long as there’s a way to get both parties involved. Even if your spouse refuses to talk to you, you may need to attempt to negotiate through a family law attorney or mediator before entertaining a default judgment.
That said, there are some cases where a judge is all but certain to make a default judgment. The most common situations are those in which the non-respondent spouse has:
- Been sent to prison
- Fled the state or country
- Been declared mentally incompetent
- Suffered a disability that prevents them from participating
- Disappeared and can’t be found even after a diligent search
In situations like these, the judge will typically make a default judgment for the spouse that’s still available, dissolving the marriage as soon as it’s legal to do so.
What Doesn’t Justify a Default Divorce?
As vexing as it may be, you can’t request a default divorce because your spouse is delaying their responses and court appearances within the legal limit.
The law allows your spouse a certain number of days to respond to your filings. If they use every day of that time, it can potentially add up to years. Even as frustrating as their actions might be, their actions may not be enough for a default judgment.
Furthermore, you can’t request a default judgment if you haven’t made a good-faith effort to inform your spouse of your legal motions. For example, if you knowingly send documents to an old address rather than their current address, you haven’t properly notified them.
Need to Request to Enter Default Divorce? Work With Our Attorneys
Don’t let a stubborn spouse make your divorce harder than it has to be. If your spouse refuses to cooperate in your divorce, the experienced family law attorneys at Parker & Aquilar can help you request to enter default divorce.
Our knowledgeable and compassionate divorce attorneys will work hard on your behalf to compel your spouse to respond to your petition for divorce. If your spouse remains unresponsive, we will help you take the appropriate actions to request a default divorce.
We currently provide support to spouses in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, reach out to our offices to discuss your divorce.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our attorneys. We are here to support you during this difficult time.