What Happens If One Spouse Doesn’t Want A Divorce?

The decision to get a divorce is rarely an easy choice. While it might be obvious that divorce is inevitable or even needed, occasionally, only one party wants one. The fact both parties do not have to agree leads many to wonder what happens if one spouse doesn't want a divorce.

Here are some things to think about if you are the spouse that wants a divorce and your partner either does not want one or is very reluctant to pursue a divorce.

Know Where You Are Filing

If you live in a “fault state” regarding a divorce, your spouse might be able to legally delay or even prevent a divorce from happening. If you assert they are at fault, they can try and prove they are not at fault or offer a defense of the behavior that led you to file for a divorce.

For the majority of cases in a fault state, a judge will grant the divorce regardless, but the spouse can delay the decision, especially if child-custody issues are in play. In cases where a couple has no responsibilities for children, a divorce will move forward, if more slowly than you initially planned.

When children are involved, the situation and process are a little different. The judge may prompt you to consider the decision further, mainly if your spouse put forth a compelling case that your cause for divorce is not true or reasonable.

At-Fault states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia.

View all of our state divorce guides here.

Play It Cool

Throughout your divorce, the more in control you appear, the more likely a judge will make decisions in your favor.

Getting the judge on your side is particularly likely in cases where the other spouse appears distraught, unreasonable, unpredictable, volatile, or dishonest. Playing it cool can convince a judge that your divorce request is grounded in logic and common sense.

Staying in control applies to any divorce case and is very important when discussing any points of contention, including if the divorce should even occur. If your spouse is trying to provoke you, it is critical that you not take the bait. The last thing you want to appear is unreasonable.

The Decision Will Happen

To help keep things cool on your end, realize that in most cases, the divorce will go through, even if one spouse objects. Knowing that can make the other spouse's behavior a little more bearable.

Some Basic Advice To Get the Other on Board

There are strategies pertaining to a divorce with a reluctant spouse that can help get them on board. Here are a few.

Persuasion Can Work

You likely will have to have meetings about your divorce. Even if you loathe the other party, it is to your benefit to persuade them to agree to the divorce (and any other decisions applying to property and children.)

Laying out why you want a divorce in a logical, objective manner can help them see the inevitable and why divorce is appropriate.

Logic, however, does not always work, and if your spouse is irrational, it likely will not. For spouses that are resistant because of commitment or surprise, however, a logical explanation can go a long way to securing agreement.

Consider Their Perspective

Even in cases where a divorce is wholly justified and necessary, say, in cases of abuse, domestic violence, or criminal activity, the other party will run through a menu of negative emotions. Those can include, but are not limited to, feeling:

  • Abandoned
  • Overwhelmed
  • Blindsided
  • Put upon
  • Deceived
  • Cheated
  • Scared

At least, they will feel like you gave up on the marriage and them. They will also be concerned regarding the outcome of the divorce, at least. If they depended on you for financial support, they would be frightened.

Compromise Can Go A Long Way

The more of these types of emotions you can anticipate and have a strategy to address, the better off you will be. In some cases, your best approach might be to compromise with them.

For example, if you are the breadwinner in the family, figuring out a fair way to help them stay afloat financially for a period until they can get back on their feet might be one way to get them to agree to your request for a divorce.

Or, if they are concerned that you might take control of the kids, making it clear you want a co-parenting arrangement can help them accept that you are ending the marriage.

Have your attorney look over anything you want to propose and ask them to consider ways your generosity might be taken advantage of by the other spouse if things turn ugly.

Don't Feel Guilty

Very few people get married because they feel obligated and almost no one anticipates getting divorced. Unfortunately, however, even the best intentions can fall by the wayside, and marriage can run its course.

Sometimes, both parties agree, and sometimes not. When you want a divorce, and they do not, remember your reasons and realize that you are not wrong. You and your spouse just disagree on the divorce. All the reasons you want one are still there.

Read More: Will I Regret Divorce? Here Are 7 Things To Consider

Get an Attorney

Even if you are an attorney, you are too close to your marriage, and what led you to want a divorce to be objective. If you are not an attorney, you do not know the law or its application. You do not know the processes and likely have your own full-time job and life to pursue. Hire a competent divorce attorney to ensure you get what you want.

Read more: Hiring a Collaborative Divorce Attorney That’s Right For You

As a Last Resort

As mentioned, even if a spouse is highly resistant, in most cases, the only thing fighting a divorce will do is delay it. Always keep that in mind. However, if the resistance is strong, your attorney may need to be more assertive. Having them send a letter announcing you retained them for the purposes of a divorce, for example, can bring them to reality quickly.

Final Thoughts

If your spouse is resistant to getting a divorce, the more reasonable and planned you are, the more likely you will get them to at least accept that the decision will happen. Keep your cool, have a plan, and rely on your attorney, and you will get through what is a difficult time for you and your spouse.