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What Happens if my Ex-Spouse Refuses to Sign the Final Decree of Divorce Revisited

A Texas divorce case will typically lead both sides to assume the worst of their soon to be ex-partner. I wish there was another way to state this but the truth of the matter is that for most married couples that are divorcing are doing so due to a dispute or disputes that have arisen that leave them unable to reconcile and repair the damage to their relationship.

With that said, prospective clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have on more than one occasion asked about what will happen if everything gets decided upon (either by agreement or by a judge) but the other party will not sign on the dotted line.

This is understandably a stressful concept for a soon to be divorcing person to have run through their mind. As with most things any Texas divorce lawyer will tell you there are specific circumstances that will impact what ultimately will occur. Let’s walk through those specifics to give you, the reader, a better idea of what can occur in a divorce case in Texas.

Default Divorce

For those spouses who truly do have a partner who isn’t the most responsible/observant/caring individual a default divorce is often the outcome. After the initial filing is completed in a Texas Divorce (called the Original Petition for Divorce), the filing spouse must give formal “notice” of the filing of the divorce paperwork.


This doesn’t just mean the filer taking the paperwork to their spouse and dropping it in their lap, however. Formal service means hiring a constable/sheriff/process server to deliver the paperwork as well as a citation to the other party to the divorce.

The Consequences of Not Filing an Answer

A citation is nothing more than the court’s semi-instructional document to this other party letting them know that the divorce has been filed and that they are being sued. The person is also made aware that they have to file a document called an “Answer” on or before 10:00 a.m. on the Monday following the expiration of twenty days from the day they were served with the divorce paperwork.

That sounds a little confusing but the deal is that if a party does not file an Answer by this deadline they are in “Default” and there are consequences to this. The filing spouse can then ask the Court for a default judgment against their spouse if an Answer is not filed within the requisite time period under Texas law.

Divorce Waiting Period

Before we go on, it’s necessary to point out that a filing spouse must still wait for sixty days to expire from the date of the filing in order to actually get the divorce finalized and approved by a judge.

Once the sixty days has expired, you may go to the Court (with a few pieces of paper which we will discuss in a moment) to which your case is assigned and show that your soon to be ex-spouse was served with:

  1. your Petition,
  2. the Citation has been returned to the Court by the serving individual and has been on file for at least 10 days, no Answer was filed and finally that the requisite 60 days has passed.

If you can do all this your divorce will be granted with or without a signature on your final divorce document called a Final Decree of Divorce.

Divorce after a Trial

The next way to get a divorce in Texas without your spouse’s signature on a divorce decree is to go through with your case, have your spouse actually file an Answer, go to Trial and have a judge render a decision in the case settling all issues that are in dispute.

The judge will let the parties know that he needs to see an Order based on his judgments by a date certain- usually two to three weeks from the Trial date.

If you or your attorney draft a document that reflects what the Judge ordered after the Trial the Judge will sign your Decree and finalize the divorce- with or without your spouse’s signature.

Mediated Settlement Agreement

The final scenario that we will discuss in this blog post deals with a Mediated Settlement Agreement that the parties have entered into. This is the most likely way for a divorce case in Texas to end up- the parties agreeing to have an independent third party attorney mediate and help settle their disputes regarding their children, property and any other subjects that the parties are at odds over.

The beauty of this arrangement is that rather than arguing with the other side over the issues that are relevant, a mediator can help the parties reach some middle ground and settle their case sooner rather than later.

At the conclusion of a mediation, so long as a settlement is reached, the parties sign a document prepared by the mediator saying that they agree whatever is being outlined in the settlement agreement and that their agreement is non revocable and binding.

This means that one party can’t wake up the next morning and frantically call their attorney to let them know they’re experiencing buyer’s remorse on a particular subject. Signing a mediated settlement agreement means that both parties are entitled to a judgment from the court on the items included in the M.S.A.

This is especially important if one party refuses to sign a final decree of divorce that will be drafted by one party based on the M.S.A. Whatever their reasons may be, the party that does sign the decree will need to set a hearing to explain to the court what the situation is.

The party that refuses to sign the decree may attend the hearing if they choose and explain their unwillingness to sign. The judge will sign the Decree even if it lacks one party’s signature if he or she believes it conforms with what was agreed to in the M.S.A.

A divorce case, no matter how simple or straightforward it may appear at the outset, inevitably has some twists and turns that require experience and professionalism in handling them. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are ready and able to listen to your concerns and to help you navigate the waters of your particular situation. Please contact our office today with any questions you may have and a licensed attorney will be available to meet with you at your convenience.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. What if My Ex Will Not Sign the Final Decree in My Texas Divorce?
  2. What does a Default Judgment Mean in a Texas Divorce?
  3. I have been served with Divorce Papers - What do I do now in Texas?
  4. Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
  5. What is mediation?
  6. The Judge Ruled Against Me in My Family Law Case Now What?
  7. The Dirty Trick of Filing for Divorce in Another City
  8. The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids
  9. Should I move out of the marital home during a divorce?
  10. 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
  11. How to complete your divorce the right way: The Final Decree of Divorce in a Texas Divorce
  12. Waivers - To sign or not to sign? The answer is don't do it!

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