While refusing to divorce makes the process more arduous, you can’t prevent divorce by ignoring it.

Across all 50 states, you can still divorce even if one partner refuses to cooperate.

Because all states allow for some form of no-fault divorce, you don’t have to assign blame or provide a reason for divorcing. Cooperation between parties may streamline the process, but it’s not essential to receiving an official divorce decree.

Here’s what to do if you’re up against a drawn-out or contentious divorce.

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1. Talk To A Therapist

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Divorce has two elements—the emotional divorce and the legal divorce.

For many, the emotional aspects of divorcing are the most difficult. Whether you feel a sense of personal failure or struggle with letting go, there are many valid reasons to find it difficult to reconcile feelings about the dissolution of your marriage.

That’s why I first recommend couples therapy to talk through the emotional aspects of your divorce.

Often, one or both of you may need help processing your emotions about your marriage so you can successfully graduate to the next step—legally divorcing.

The quicker you can come to terms with the divorce in your mind and heart, the easier it will be to finalize the process.

If someone is digging their heels in or refusing to do their part for the divorce, it’s an indication that they’re in a state of anger or denial. A great therapist can do wonders to bring these emotions to the surface and work through them collaboratively so you can move forward with your lives.

2. Pursue A Bifurcation of Marital Status

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If talking doesn’t work, there are legal means to becoming single again, primarily by bifurcating your divorce case.

What does this mean? When you bifurcate an issue, you essentially break out one element of the divorce to be settled separately from the others.

Divorce involves settling various issues, including property division, spousal support, and marital status. If you’re eager to no longer be legally married, you can bifurcate the issue of marital status to become legally single again.

So, no matter how drawn out your divorce may be, you have the option to at least date, remarry, or resolve inheritance or health care issues as a legally single person.

In California, there’s a six-month waiting period after serving or receiving divorce papers where you’re not legally allowed to be single. Once the six-month period is up, you may file a motion for bifurcation of your divorce case.

If the court approves the request for bifurcation, the case will be split into separate hearings, and if granted, the court may issue a divorce decree.

The benefit is that you can move on—both legally and emotionally—as a single person, even as other elements of your divorce remain unresolved.

What If You Can’t Find Your Spouse?

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Even in cases of marital abandonment, there are workarounds to keep the legal process moving.

In California, the first step in filing for divorce is physically serving divorce papers. So what do you do if your spouse is purposefully evading you, or you’re unsure of their whereabouts?

In this case, the court may approve alternative methods, such as service by publication.

Service by publication allows you to publish the divorce notice in an appropriate newspaper as directed by the court, usually for four consecutive weeks, as a means of serving the papers.

This allows you to move forward with the divorce process, no matter how difficult your spouse makes it for you.

TLDR: You Can’t Refuse Divorce

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There’s no way to legally avoid divorce.

If one spouse decides to serve divorce papers, they can complete the process even in the other spouse’s absence. It doesn’t matter if one person avoids the documents or even goes AWOL; there are several legal workarounds to finalize a divorce, even if it’s one-sided.

Schedule a consultation call with me if you have questions or concerns about the divorce process. I’m more than happy to explain the details so you can feel empowered to take the next step toward your new life.

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