California divorce law states that you do not need the consent of both spouses in order get a divorce. You have the right to proceed with a divorce whether your spouse wants to or not. That said, the way you communicate and interact with your partner as you take the first steps to end your marriage can have a huge impact on how the divorce moves forward, the stress level, the duration, the expense and the final outcome for both of you.
Divorce Helpline can be a great resource in these situations. We work with people to formulate a plan to move forward and try to engage the reluctant partner. Every person is different, but after 17 years of helping couples through mediation and divorce, I have rarely seen a circumstance where simply forcing divorce paperwork on someone has had a positive outcome. In most instances, it steers the case right into litigation. (If you are wondering why litigation might not be in your best interest, learn more here.)
When I work with someone who is dealing with an uncooperative spouse, I explain that while I am an expert on divorce law and the divorce process, they are the expert on their spouse. Working together, we can explore how to communicate with the party who doesn’t want a divorce and how we can best deliver the necessary information. “How would the spouse be most likely to accept the news and the information they need to realize that by engaging in denial, they are prolonging and complicating the process? Through an email, face to face communication with a trusted friend or loved one, a meeting with me or via some other channel?”
If the partner is completely shut down and unlikely to accept any entreaty to communicate, we can still consider options to help mitigate the situation. For example, if we have no choice other than serving the initial paperwork, something that I highly discourage if the goal is to have an amicable divorce, it might be that adding a note or letter with the appropriate message can soften the impact. This kind of communique is also an avenue to let the person know that there are options other than stonewalling or going into battle. I’ve seen firsthand how a spouse who was adamantly opposed to a divorce is able to move through stages, similar to those in the grief process, which can help them face the realities of the situation and gain some perspective. This transformation often occurs in mediation, where each spouse has a chance to be heard by a neutral third party and consider options for the future.
There are situations where urgencies such as financial need, housing concerns, parenting issues, etc. can’t be delayed, and you must act quickly. In these cases, it can be particularly important to recognize that you have options other than forging ahead to serve a non-cooperative partner. We strongly encourage you to contact us for a free, confidential consultation to avoid a wrong turn that can be the start of a tough trajectory.