The Non-Participating Spouse
Let’s suppose the marriage between you and your spouse has broken down, and you are ready to dissolve it. You and your spouse have already begun moving in separate directions. Tensions are mounting, and you’ve stopped communicating to avoid further escalation. Despite this, you’d like to resolve things through the cheapest and most efficient means, i.e. a property settlement agreement, rather than spending the time and money to litigate the issues of marital property, custody and support in court.
The catch is that your spouse won’t answer your attempts to communicate, won’t hire an attorney or regularly communicate with the attorney he or she has hired, and won’t extend the courtesy of resolving matters efficiently. What can you do?
You have options, although you’ll need to balance what you know about your spouse with your desire for resolution. You can try to spend the time, money and energy waiting for your spouse to come around. Perhaps the tension is high only temporarily, and your spouse will come to terms with the need to communicate at some point in the near future. You can also try talking to his or her support system as a means of encouraging communication.
You should be wary, however, when your spouse has an incentive to avoid resolution. For example, if you are a member of the military and you were ordered to provide half of your basic housing allowance to your spouse during the separation, your spouse may have no incentive to settle because he or she is already being financially cared for. Conversely, if your spouse was always the primary breadwinner and is financially sound on his or her own, he or she may have no incentive to continue supporting you without being court-ordered to do so.
A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t see significant effort by your spouse to come to the negotiating table within a month or two after reaching out to him or her, filing for divorce may be your best bet to avoid wasting further time and money. Filing for divorce starts the clock and will force your spouse to at least consider settlement. Furthermore, you may pursue pendente lite relief that you would not have otherwise been able to receive without the court’s intervention.
If you are debating whether to negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse or pursue litigation, the family law attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. can provide guidance throughout the process. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.