You have met with an attorney, painstakingly put together an agreement that you find more than fair. You look over the drafts, make changes accordingly, thinking that if you give in a little more your spouse will sign no problem. You get the paperwork back and you either call your spouse or you have your attorney do it. You patiently (or most of the time, impatiently) await for action on their part. They must go sign for this to be done and over, and that’s all that is left. Simple, right? However, they don’t show up. They don’t answer the phone. They don’t sign. They don’t even read the papers. They simply don’t care what you want, and you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do.
Sooo, what happens now? Do you wait until they’re in the middle of a game of the national championship and turn the game off until they decide to read the papers? Do you leave a copy of the papers everywhere (shower, microwave, fridge, steering wheel, at work) then wait for them to get the point? Do you put them on their forehead while they’re sleeping? Do you tie them up and perform some sort of water torture until they sign? Although these are all creative, they might lead to a huge blow out. We feel this is what should happen next:
- Schedule a new appointment to discuss your options going forward. You may have expected it to be uncontested. Perhaps, when you came to your first appointment you thought that it would be guaranteed a quick and easy case. You probably told your lawyer as such. Then, your spouse doesn’t want to cooperate. This doesn’t normally surprise us, as sometimes it’s easier to just let the divorce linger than it is to have to take action. It’s time to force your soon to be ex into action. We can help, but it’ll take some strategizing and recouping to get us to where we need to be going forward. When the defense changes things up, the offense needs to do the same.
- Redo your budget. An uncontested by its very nature is uncomplicated and easier to do. It is almost a mythical creature in family law. Once things turn contested, meaning your spouse is not cooperating in any form or fashion, it’s time to realize that this may not be as quick, inexpensive and easy as possible. Once things turn contested, a retainer is needed to make changes to the papers, spend time contacting and negotiating with your spouse or their attorney, and dealing with the more complicated nature of the case. Time is money, and if you need additional time communicating with your spouse by your attorney, you’ll need to pay a retainer so that they have sufficient funds to work efficiently for you. A lot of times clients don’t understand how much time it takes to send multiple emails, phone calls, and letters to someone who simply will not cooperate. (That goes with uncooperative attorneys as well!)
- Give them a time limit before you’ll get them served. People tend to put off dealing with difficult situations until they absolutely have to. Wonder why April 15th is hated by so many? (I don’t hate it because it’s my birthday, but other people do… which makes me sad). If you put a time limit on your spouse it lets them know you mean business. Sometimes simply saying “please respond in 14 days” is enough to put their butt in gear. It sparks that wonder of what happens in 14 days?
- Rethink your settlement. At this time, you have to think, is it worth fighting over? Did you put something in the papers that you knew would upset them? Did you ask for their R2D2 out of spite? Did you ask for Fluffy even though you hate walking her and don’t let her sleep on your feet at night while your spouse and the dog are simply inseparable? It’s time to reevaluate what you’re asking for in order to determine whether or not it’s time to go contested. If it’s really fair, and they’re being lazy, well then it’s time to go ahead and file a complaint and get this started.
- File the Complaint. If they avoided the conflict, and avoided responding because they didn’t want to deal, filing a complaint gets the process started without their consent. They now have thirty days to answer or a default will be issued against them. So go ahead, light the fire under their rear (please don’t really do that because that’s illegal.)