New York divorces are often very acrimonious affairs. Both spouses want something specific, and they may fight with one another to secure what they believe are fair and appropriate terms. Many people worry about filing for divorce specifically because they fear confrontation with their spouse and a battle over property division or custody matters.
However, some people worry about the exact opposite. They know that their spouse does not want to divorce and might try to prevent the courts from granting a divorce. If one spouse files for divorce, can the other ignore the filing to prevent the divorce from occurring?
Mutual consent is needed for a marriage
Both spouses must provide consent for a marriage to occur. They also need to give their tacit ongoing consent for the marriage to continue. Changing circumstances might lead to either spouse withdrawing their consent to the marriage. At that point, they can request a divorce in the New York family courts.
Spouses do not need to agree for a divorce to move forward. If they disagree about the terms set, then contested or litigated divorce is an option. If one spouse does not want to divorce at all, however, they cannot prevent the divorce from occurring.
If one spouse refuses to respond to the other’s divorce filing, then the person who filed can move forward without them. Provided that both spouses currently live in New York, the respondent has 20 days to formally acknowledge and possibly counter the divorce filing of the other. If they fail to do so, the filer can request that the courts let them move forward with a default divorce judgment.
The person who filed the paperwork could then, theoretically, have control over the terms set for property division, child custody and other major considerations. In most cases, the spouse served with divorce paperwork can achieve the best outcome by responding quickly and asserting their rights.
The failure to acknowledge a divorce filing may ultimately do more harm than good for the spouse who may not wish to divorce. Understanding the rules that determine what occurs during a New York divorce, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, may help people to more effectively plan for and navigate a divorce filing.