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What Happens if I Don’t Sign the Divorce Papers?
Your reasons for not wanting to sign divorce papers may be very similar to those of others in similar situations. Some people think that if they delay signing, their spouse will “come to their senses.” Others think that not signing the divorce papers will somehow punish their spouse through delays and making the process difficult.
If you think by not signing the dissolution papers your divorce will be delayed or go away, you couldn’t be further from the truth. It may be very emotionally difficult to face the situation you’re in, but this is the time to look out for your interests and assets with as much objectivity as possible. While most of the reasons not signing may make sense to you during an intensely emotional time, we want you to understand exactly what that means legally.
Here’s what happens in the state of New Jersey when you don’t respond to divorce papers.
When you’re first served with divorce papers, you have 35 days to respond. That’s it. If you were blindsided by this, you can attempt to reach out to get more information. But, ultimately, 35 days isn’t enough time to resolve your marital issues or get closure.
Instead, this time is meant for you to consult an attorney who’ll help you determine what your situation really is and how to deal with it. Your attorney can also strategize with you about what your next move should be, and how to prioritize what you need to do.
During that 35-day window, you can lament the fact that your spouse has taken action to dissolve your marriage. If you’re having trouble accepting your spouse’s decision, talk to a therapist or a trusted clergyperson.
You Have 35 Days to Begin the Process of Protecting Your Future
During the 35-day window, you must do one of the following. Your first option is to file an “Appearance.” This means that you don’t object to the divorce but may object to what your spouse is asking for like custody, child support or alimony.
Your second option is to file an “Answer.” This means you agree or disagree with the original complaint.
Your third option is to file a “Counterclaim.” This means you have your own reasons to state why you want a divorce. This is when your spouse has filed an “at fault” divorce and made claims that you’d like to address. If you choose to file a counterclaim, there will be a court filing fee to be paid.
If you’ve been in a toxic relationship and are glad to be done with the negativity, you may want to move on with the divorce and just be done with it. If you’re married to someone who’s controlling, they may try to coerce you to give up your fair share of the marital assets just so you can get it all over with. But you’re going to want to defend your assets. An attorney can look at your situation objectively and without the emotional connections and attachments that you might have. They’ll be able to work through issues and procedures quickly.
If you haven’t committed an act that would be grounds for an “at fault” divorce (such as adultery, abuse, and drug or alcohol issues), your spouse can still move forward to dissolve the marriage. But, you must be separated for 18 months to do this. If you don’t want to be divorced, you’ll need to respond while working with an attorney to see if it’s an option to salvage the relationship.
However, if you don’t sign the papers, it says that you agree with the divorce and have no say in what happens to your assets and custody, if applicable.
Another aspect you must think about regarding signing those papers is the fact that New Jersey is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that the marital property has to be divided “fairly” between the spouses.
What Does “Equitable Distribution” Mean in Your Case?
This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be split 50/50 between you and your ex. The actual split is just meant to be “fair” and can be determined using factors like the length of your marriage, your respective ages and health condition, your marital standard of living, and your economic standing. All of those can be factors in the final decision.
If you don’t sign the divorce complaint forms, then this will all be decided without you or your input. When it’s all said and done and the dust has settled, you may end up with less than your half of the assets and feeling like the decision isn’t as fair as you thought it should be.
Here’s How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Keeps Your Divorce From Becoming Even More Painful
Getting a divorce is a painful experience. We know it might be tempting to just stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. But this isn’t the time to be silent. If you don’t consider the implications carefully and fail to address the divorce, the divorce will still happen, but without your input.
Experienced lawyers understand the stress of the divorce process and guide you through the process. Your future self will be glad that you took the time to consider the legal implications of not signing divorce papers, and choosing a better course of action.
Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in West Deptford, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including Williamstown, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.