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What to Do When a Spouse Does Not Agree to a Pro Se Divorce in Florida?

Date Posted: March 5, 2023 5:10 am

What to Do When a Spouse Does Not Agree to a Pro Se Divorce in Florida?

Terminating marriage involves undergoing a legal procedure in or out of court, depending on your preferences and the relationship between you and your spouse.

Florida law allows couples ending their matrimony to choose a pro se divorce, saving them valuable time, energy, and money.

But what happens when your spouse will not agree to a pro se divorce?

The article discusses the nature of pro se divorce in Florida and available options if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers.

What Is a Pro Se Divorce?

A pro se divorce is a procedural form allowing spouses to undergo divorce without legal representation. In Florida, divorcing spouses can represent themselves in court, avoiding attorney fees and saving significant money. It enables spouses with tight budgets to navigate the legal procedure without lawyers.

Divorcing pro se has its advantages besides its cost-effectiveness. Going through the process without vindictive trial attorneys often leads to quicker resolution and increases the chances of settling. On the other hand, there are downsides too. In complex cases (involving high-net assets division), spouses have trouble dealing with financial and tax-related issues without professional legal help.

Is a Pro Se Divorce Uncontested?

A pro se divorce is not necessarily uncontested, meaning you can initiate a divorce procedure representing yourself even if there is no agreement between you and your spouse regarding the issues such as child custody, parental time, child support, alimony, and marital property division.

However, any disagreement about mentioned issues triggers a dispute – which parties typically resolve in an adversarial court setting. Resolving conflicts in court requires professional legal assistance because dealing with marital property division, child custody, and alimony involves complex legal and financial aspects for which non-lawyers are ill-prepared.

Therefore, you can represent yourself in a contested divorce, but given the issues surrounding a disputed marriage dissolution, you will be better off with professional legal representation. On the other hand, being on the same page regarding vital divorce-related issues mean you can safely go into the process without a lawyer. That is why most uncontested divorces are pro se and vice versa.

Is a Pro Se Divorce Uncontested

Why Your Spouse Will Not Agree to a Pro Se Divorce?

There are numerous reasons why your spouse refuses to agree to a pro se (uncontested) divorce. The two are the most common:

  1. Inappropriate language. Florida is a no-fault state, meaning you do not have to prove your spouse committed adultery or other marital misconduct. The only ground for divorce is an irretrievably broken marriage. You can file for divorce if you and your spouse cannot live together anymore (regardless of the reason). Despite not explicitly pointing to the other party’s fault, you should still be careful with your language. Using the wrong tone or suggesting your spouse somehow contributed to a divorce can make them feel angry and resentful. Including allegations that will dissatisfy the other party will cause them to refuse to sign the divorce papers, leading to a contested divorce. Therefore, be careful with your wording and focus on a no-fault aspect of the divorce. State that you and your spouse mutually agreed to end the marriage due to irreconcilable differences that led to an irretrievably broken marriage. Never imply the other spouse bears the sole responsibility for the failure of your matrimony.
  1. Fear from the unknown. Another reason your spouse may hesitate to sign the divorce documents is the fear of an unknown situation. Agreeing to an uncontested divorce takes courage. You voluntarily renounce the guarantees of the court process, including the right to an appeal. Feeling afraid of a process that does not include typical safeguards is natural. To help your spouse proceed with a pro se (uncontested) divorce, you must convince them that going into the process pro se and without contesting the key issues is mutually beneficial. Communication is key. Go back to where you were when you first agreed to file for an uncontested divorce. Calmly explain that waiving some rights aims at efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Use neutral language and avoid playing the blame game.

What To Do If Your Spouse Refuses an Uncontested Divorce?

Both spouses rarely agree to divorce at the same time. Usually, one spouse feels dissatisfaction and unhappiness with the marriage long before the announcement they wish to divorce. The other spouse may not want to end the marriage and can initially resist, but they accept the inevitable over time. However, sometimes spouses refuse divorce, no matter how hard you try to show your marriage is irretrievably broken. Here is what you should do if your spouse will not agree to a pro se divorce in Florida:

  1. Determine the proper ground for divorce. Although Florida law leaves no option regarding grounds for divorce, ensure you file for a no-fault divorce. But do not stop by fulfilling formal requirements. Be careful not to use language that would imply your spouse is guilty of a divorce. Use neutral words and focus on the differences in your character that make a life together undesirable. A law system in Florida does not require spouses to agree to a no-fault divorce. Stating that you do not want to live with your spouse anymore is sufficient. That means you do not need consent to proceed with the marriage dissolution.
  1. Check if your spouse filed a response to a divorce complaint. After serving your spouse with a divorce complaint, they have 120 days to respond (potentially contesting the divorce). If the other party does not file a response, that does not mean you have to put the divorce on hold. You can ask the court to proceed with an uncontested divorce, regardless of your spouse’s position.
  1. Proceed with the process. Lack of cooperation from your spouse will not affect the uncontested divorce procedure. A no-fault divorce system requires no consent from both parties. However, your spouse can contest a divorce at a court hearing, delaying the final divorce order. A contested divorce will prolong the case and make it more expensive, but that does not prevent you as a pro se litigant from pursuing the desired court outcome.
  1. Go for a contested divorce. Failing to get your spouse to agree to an uncontested divorce may postpone the outcome but not prevent it. Despite representing yourself in a contested divorce may be more challenging, you have the right to file for a divorce, regardless of your spouse’s consent or lack thereof.
  1. Try mediation. If pro se contested divorce seems daunting, you can try an alternative out-of-court solution. Despite your spouse refusing divorce initially, a non-vindictive mediation environment may make them change their mind. Using sophisticated mediation skills, a mediator will go back and forth between you and your spouse, bridging the differences and finding common ground. Negotiations (facilitated by a neutral third person) can do wonders, convincing your spouse to agree to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Let Ann Goade Help You Settle

Let Ann Goade Help You Settle

A certified Florida family mediator, Ann M. Goade has over three decades of experience dealing with divorcing couples.

Ms. Goade can help you settle divorce-related issues no matter how uncooperative one of the spouses may initially be.

You do not have to wait for the stars to align to get a positive divorce experience – reach out today to schedule your free appointment.

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