In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Are Both Parties Required to Sign Divorce Papers?
There are numerous different types of divorce papers, and the functions they serve and the problems they address are even more extensive. However, there are only a handful of types of divorce papers that require two spouses to both sign them, and there are a few that don’t require any signature at all. Even if one spouse does not agree to a divorce, this cannot stop the divorce from going forward. If one spouse refuses to sign the necessary documents or refuses to participate altogether, then a New Hampshire court will generally finalize the divorce without their participation.
How Petitions Work
In general, the spouse who initially files for the divorce is required to sign their own complaint or petition; however, there are some states that allow an attorney to do this on behalf of their client. The other spouse who is named in the complaint will create, sign, and file their own responding petition. There are a handful of states that enable a couple to divorce via mutual consent. In this scenario, if both spouses mutually agree to end their marriage, they can file a joint divorce petition. Both parties are required to sign it. Should one party change their mind and refuse to sign the joint petition, then the other spouse can file a standard divorce petition and start a contested matter.
The Process of Being Served
When only one party files a divorce petition, they are required to have the documents served to the other party so that their state has jurisdiction over them. The served spouse has the option of signing a waiver that indicates they are in agreement with the divorce. This does not require a process server or sheriff to officially “serve” them with papers. The served spouse can also choose to sign an acknowledgment of service document, which confirms that they have received the appropriate paperwork.
There are a few states that allow an individual to be served via registered mail. Under this scenario, the served party is required to sign a mail receipt. If the spouse who is being served refuses to sign for the divorce petition of their own free will, then the spouse who initially filed the divorce petition has other means that can be used with a court’s approval. For example, if a sheriff cannot find a person in order to serve them papers, then they can be “served” via service by publication. Their refusal to sign any divorce related documents cannot prevent the divorce from moving forward. After a newspaper has published the notice, the other party can file default because they did not participate, and the divorce will ultimately be granted.
Mutual Settlement Agreements
When an uncontested divorce occurs, both parties involved are able to mutually settle all issues related to their marriage, property division, and the division of assets. The agreed upon terms are spelled out in a formal document that then becomes part of the divorce decree. Both spouses’ signatures are required in order for the document to become valid. Each person’s signature serves as their confirmation that they are agreeing to the document’s terms. For this reason, most courts will require the document to be notarized. In a situation where both parties have retained legal counsel, their divorce attorneys will sign the document as well.
Finally, many divorces do proceed to trial because a judge’s input is required to settle issues between the divorcing spouses. When a judge makes a divorce decree, no signature is required but that of the judge. A divorce decree is essentially defined as a judge’s issued order for the purpose of resolving contested matters. It is a binding ruling for both parties involved in the divorce, and neither one has to agree to it or like it in order for it to take effect. However, all states, including New Hampshire, have legal procedures in place that enable a spouse to appeal the judge’s ruling or request that he or she reconsider it.
To learn more about New Hampshire’s laws regarding divorce, please contact one of our experienced NH divorce attorneys today for a free consultation.
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