Can My Spouse Keep Me from Getting A Divorce?

It takes two to make a marriage work. A divorce, however, is a different story. It’s a common misperception that when one spouse wants a divorce, and the other doesn’t, the one who doesn’t want it can withhold it from the one who does. This is not the case. It does make negotiations more difficult as the spouse who doesn’t want the divorce may refuse to agree to anything.

If You Want a Divorce…

Here are a few things you need to do in the case of a non-mutual decision to divorce.

Know Your Rights

Florida is a “no-fault” state. You don’t have to prove grounds for a divorce other than stating “irreconcilable differences”. You can file on your own without your spouse’s approval.

Your Spouse Cannot Refuse Service

Papers will be served to your spouse, who may try to avoid receiving them in the hopes that this means a divorce cannot be granted. This is not the case. If your spouse cannot be served, there are alternative methods of service.


In order for your divorce to be granted by the courts, all financial and legal issues must be resolved to the couple’s mutual satisfaction. That means negotiations over property, pets, kids, debt, etc.

This is where the spouse who doesn’t want the divorce often drags their feet. This phase can go on indefinitely as long as there are things to disagree about and money to pay the attorneys. Many spouses use the negotiation stage as a way to maintain contact and connection to the other person. It’s unfortunate for all involved when this happens but they are well within their rights to argue the points as they see fit. The average contested divorce takes between 2-3 years.

Put Away the Guilt

Recognize that the things your spouse is saying to you are said out of hurt. Making you feel guilty for abandoning the family is an act of control and manipulation. Recognize it as that and move past it. If you’re not invested in the marriage there is nothing you, or your spouse, can do to make it work.

Divorce is Not the Only Way

Sometimes it helps to talk. Sometimes your spouse just wants to be heard. A peaceful arrangement is always best when you have children. Here are a couple of things you can do:

Go to Counseling

As a couple or on your own, counseling fills in a spot your friends can’t. They just aren’t equipped to deal with your marriage troubles in an objective way. Talk to someone who is.

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

If the two of you are able to talk and be in the same room, a mediator may be able to help you work on your future and not dwell on your past.

A collaborative divorce is less costly and better for your children because it is a faster process than the bickering that occurs during a contested divorce. But mediation and collaboration are not for everyone. Communication is essential, and a willingness to work at compromise will be needed. That’s difficult when one spouse has dug his heels in. Still sometimes coming to the table to talk, instead of arguing over things, is all your spouse needed.

Ultimately your spouse can’t stop you from seeking or getting, a divorce. The more you’re able to communicate and understand your spouse’s emotions and concerns, the better the process will go. In cases of contested divorce, you need a strong attorney on your side. Contact Dean Tsourakis today for a free consultation.