If you are facing a divorce in the St. Louis, MO area, chances are you are facing hurdles you never expected. The unique dynamics of your divorce situation likely involve difficulties you probably never even considered until now. In many cases, emotions are running high and patience is wearing thin with both parties involved, which can create even more complications.
One of those circumstances may include a spouse who doesn’t want a divorce or simply refuses to sign the necessary documents in an effort to be hurtful. This may cause the divorce process to take longer than is necessary. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t get divorced.
How Can an Individual Refuse to Sign?
There are several ways your spouse may complicate the situation by refusing your divorce. They may receive the divorce papers, but simply refuse to sign them or respond in any way. Another way some individuals choose to create problems is by avoiding service of the divorce papers. To do this, they may hide out or change their routine, so the process server or other individual in charge of hand delivering their divorce papers can’t find them.
Although these acts are frustrating and certainly create difficulties, all they do in the end is prolong the inevitable. In the state of Missouri, the judge handling the case will allow you to file for a “default divorce” if your spouse refuses to respond. In this and other divorce situations, it is always best to have a trusted attorney on your side.
What Is a Default Divorce?
When you decide you want a divorce, the first step is to file a petition for dissolution of the marriage. This petition is hand delivered to the other spouse, along with a summons to respond in the next 30 days. If they fail to abide by this summons, they are at risk of defaulting by failing to answer the petition.
When this occurs, an attorney for the spouse who has filed for divorce can have the case placed on the default docket. In this scenario, the courts will issue the other spouse an order to appear. Unfortunately, in many cases, the other spouse may still refuse to acknowledge the divorce proceedings.
In a default divorce, continuing to ignore the divorce proceedings can be extremely detrimental to the non-complying spouse, as the court may then enter a default judgement. This means the court will make a full disposition and finalize the case without any interaction or input from that spouse. Default divorces typically benefit the spouse who filed for the divorce by granting them the relief they seek in their petition. These rulings are valid and binding, just as they would have been if the spouse had chosen to appear.
Why Do the Courts Allow Default Divorces?
The reason that default divorces are granted by the courts is fairly simple. The courts understand that it is unreasonable for an individual seeking a divorce to be kept waiting for months on end, simply because their spouse is being vengeful and refuses to respond to the petition or appear in court.
One particular issue with default divorces, however, is that appellate courts are not fond of default judgements and often set them aside. In this situation, the spouse in receipt of the default judgement can make a motion to set the judgement aside by creating a credible defense and showing good cause. However, the respondent must adhere to a strict statute of limitations—in the state of Missouri, if the respondent wishes to file a motion to vacate the default judgement, they have one year to do so. The courts often prefer to set these judgements aside, but it is still a risk to the no-show spouse, as they may be left with a very unfavorable outcome if they cannot provide just cause to have the judgement vacated.
How Do You Request a Default Divorce?
If you have filed for the dissolution of your marriage and properly served your spouse their papers, but they failed to respond in the thirty-day time period, you may file for a default. Your St. Louis divorce attorney can help you file this request along with a proposed judgement.
At this time, the court will set a date for the hearing and request that you appear. When the day of the hearing arrives, the judge will likely make their ruling based solely on what you have stated in your petition for divorce. They will also issue their judgement and finalize your divorce orders. By their failure to respond, your spouse has forfeited their right to have any influence on the divorce or the judgement the court makes.
What Are the Benefits of a Default Divorce?
If your spouse fails to respond to your divorce papers, there are several ways you may benefit from filing for a default divorce. For example, court costs and attorney fees tend to be less, as it is less likely there will be a protracted court battle. You may also avoid having to provide extensive financial information, such as bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and other account statements. This information about your assets and income is required in regular divorce proceedings.
What Happens if Your Spouse Succeeds in Having the Default Judgement Vacated?
If your spouse is truly attempting to stretch out the divorce process and create more problems for you, they may mount a case to have the default judgement vacated. If they are successful in this attempt, the judgement you received will be null and void. “Vacating” the default judgement means that the court has made the decision to set the ruling aside. In this scenario, the divorce case will then proceed as it would have originally, if your spouse had responded to the divorce papers and showed up for court.
Place Your Trust in the Attorneys With Experience
If you are seeking a divorce and fear that it will not be an amicable one, there is no other team you can trust in the St. Louis, MO area than the lawyers at Stange Law Firm. We treat our clients with compassion and respect and can walk you through every step of the process, even when your spouse attempts to make things difficult for you. If you would like to learn how we can help you with a traditional or default divorce, visit our website today.