Divorce Law

My Spouse Said They Won't Let Me Divorce Them

In a "no-fault" divorce state, there is nothing your spouse can do to legally stop a divorce. You can file for and obtain a divorce decree from the court. Your spouse can make the process difficult for you, but they can't stop it.

However, a spouse can potentially stop or delay a "fault" divorce by:

  • Convincing the court that they are not at fault
  • Asserting some type of defense

Even so, a judge will likely eventually grant a fault divorce. It is generally accepted that it is not a good policy to force a spouse to stay married when they want out of the marriage.

Note: If your spouse is harassing you or making threats about you filing for divorce, keep a record of them and share them with your divorce attorney right away.

Typical Reasons for a Fault Divorce

A marriage can fall apart for many reasons. Though it depends on specific state laws, the most common fault grounds include:

  • Emotional or physical cruelty and abuse in marriage
  • An extra-marital relationship that leads to cheating, adultery, or abandoning the family
  • Abandoning or deserting for a specific period of time
  • Spouse being in prison for a specific period of time
  • Inability to engage in sexual intercourse if it was not disclosed before the marriage

The reasons for seeking a fault divorce vary. It can scale from seeking revenge on a spouse, hoping to stop the divorce, or simply seeking convenience. Fault divorces happen faster because there is no required separation time before filing. Another reason for a fault-based divorce is that one spouse might be hoping to get more money and property by proving the other spouse is at fault.

Your attorney can help you consider the motives for a fault divorce and how to handle the case accordingly.

Possible Defenses To Stop a 'Fault' Divorce

The defenses associated with fault divorces are complicated. Since laws vary by state, your spouse might evaluate the state laws that are more "friendly" to their situation.

Not all states allow all defenses, but the most common fault divorce defenses are:

  • Connivance: Proving one spouse baited the other into doing something wrong.
  • Condonation: Proving one spouse knew about the behavior, accepted it, but later filed for divorce.
  • Recrimination: Proving both spouses are guilty of the same bad behavior. This is common when both spouses are cheating or dating other people.
  • Provocation: Proving one spouse provoked the other to commit bad or immoral behavior.
  • Collusion: Proving that both spouses agreed to create a "fault" reason for the divorce. Then, one spouse changes their mind and begins fighting the case.

If both spouses point fingers at each other, the courts will determine which spouse is less at fault. These defenses are the most common but are not commonly used. Fault cases involve gathering evidence, witnesses, time, money, and a lot of effort to prove one side of the story. In the end, a judge will likely still grant a divorce.

How To Keep a Divorce Going When Your Spouse Resists

A spouse can try many things to stop a divorce. In the end, it will likely cost them time and money, and you will still end up with a divorce.

These factors can be scary to hear, especially when they are a threat. The following issues can complicate matters and slow down the process, but ultimately won't stop a "fault" divorce from progressing:

  • Threatening time with children, such as taking away holidays with you. Both sides will need to agree on a parenting plan before the case goes forward, or the judge will decide for you.
  • Threatening to "destroy the family," "take the kids," or "you will never see your kids again." A judge is the only one who can sign off on limited visitation or full custody for one parent. They will determine what is in the best interests of the child.
  • Threatening to take all the money or leave a spouse broke. A judge will determine child support payments, spousal support (alimony), and property division in the divorce settlement. The judge will consider your financial security when making any rulings.
  • Threatening to make things difficult and create a convoluted divorce process. This can create an ugly divorce, but the legal procedures will carry on according to state laws. Your spouse can't change the legal process.
  • Threatening or committing physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping, or violence. Call the police and tell your attorney. This may significantly affect the divorce judgment and parenting time.

Your divorce lawyer is a key person to keep the divorce progressing despite a spouse's attempts to delay the process or sabotage it. If needed, your attorney can often handle all communications to remove contact between spouses.

Note: To file for divorce in a particular state, the petitioner must meet that state's filing and residency requirements. It is essential to consult with an attorney if you have any questions about your state's divorce laws. Your case may become more complicated if you do not live in the same state as your spouse.