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Can one spouse prevent a divorce by refusing to respond?

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2024 | family law |

Divorce tends to trigger a variety of disputes between spouses. Couples may not agree on a fair way to divide their property or on how to handle matters regarding any shared children. In some cases, they might not even agree about the necessity of a divorce.

One spouse may feel like the relationship has become unhealthy or imbalanced. Their spouse may not necessarily share their perspective. The no-fault divorce process in New Jersey allows someone to file for divorce without discussing it with their spouse first or even having a specific reason to request a divorce.

If the spouse who doesn’t file wants to remain married, they may do everything in their power to prevent the divorce from progressing. Can someone who doesn’t want to end a marriage refuse to respond to legal service as a way of preventing divorce proceedings?

Ignoring service does not prevent a divorce

Contrary to what some people believe, mutual consent is not necessary to secure a divorce in New Jersey. Instead, only one spouse has to desire a divorce. Marriage requires ongoing mutual consent, while divorce only requires one spouse to withdraw their consent to continue the marriage.

Once they have legally served the other spouse with the necessary documents, there is a limited window of opportunity in which the recipient spouse can respond. Typically, someone only has 35 days after receiving divorce documents to accept the proposal made by their spouse or counter the proposal with their own suggestions.

If the filer does not receive a timely response from their spouse, they can go back to the New Jersey family courts requesting a default divorce judgment. In many cases, the terms that they proposed become the terms the courts integrate into the final divorce decrees. Therefore, one spouse’s failure to acknowledge a proposed divorce can actually benefit the spouse who files for divorce.

People don’t have to worry about remaining trapped in a toxic relationship because their spouse is too controlling to let them go. Someone who ignores divorce paperwork can end up divorced anyway. Learning about default judgments and other aspects of the New Jersey divorce process can benefit those who feel that their marriage is no longer healthy and functional. Those who understand the general rules for divorce may be able to take greater control of the process.