Can one spouse prevent the courts from granting a divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2023 | Divorce

For many couples, marriage is more about commitment than it is about passion. It is unfortunately common for one spouse to feel more committed to the relationship than the other. It is also possible for one person to view the marriages and means of continuing to control or manipulate the other.

Therefore, those contemplating divorce in Washington frequently find themselves worrying that their spouse could prevent the courts from granting them a divorce.

Washington grants no-fault divorces

For one spouse to prevent the courts from granting a divorce, they would typically need to push back against the legality or accuracy of their spouse’s divorce filing. Historically, this meant that fault-based divorce filings often resulted in failure, as the spouse seeking to end the relationship did not have enough evidence to support their claims of abuse or abandonment.

The transition to no-fault divorces has taken the uncertainty out of a divorce filing. Although the law does allow for a defense from the responding spouse, the burden of proof may be hard to overcome in such cases. A Washington no-fault divorce is the result of an irretrievably broken relationship. For the responding spouse to prevent a marital dissolution, they would need to convince the courts that the spouse who filed lied about the dynamics of their marital relationship.

Refusing to respond won’t prevent a divorce

It is uncommon but not unheard of for one spouse to try to contest the other’s claim of an irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship. However, the more common way that one’s spouse might seek to prevent the divorce involves them refusing to acknowledge the divorce filing.

They might think that if they don’t respond to the courts, they could then claim that they never agreed to the divorce. However, state law only gives someone who lives in Washington 20 days to respond to their spouse’s divorce filing, regardless of how they intend to respond.

Those who delay their response beyond that point will potentially lose their right to contest their spouse’s suggestions regarding support, property division and child custody matters. The courts may grant a divorce by default even if one spouse is completely uncommunicative, and they may also grant a no-fault divorce even when one spouse desperately wishes to stay married.

Understanding the laws that govern divorce proceedings in Washington may help someone to better prepare for their own divorce filing or understand the need to respond to a spouse’s. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.

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