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The Responding Spouse's Role in an Uncontested Divorce

Why is it better for my spouse to cooperate?

Divorce becomes expensive when spouses can't agree. Getting a divorce by agreement is the fastest and least expensive way to get the job done. That's why DivorceWriter is designed for couples who are able to cooperate throughout the divorce process. That doesn't mean being best friends, but both spouses must be able to sign any required documents. To be eligible to use DivorceWriter, you must answer in order to answer “yes” to the question “Is your spouse willing to sign the divorce papers?” At the very least, this means your spouse will sign a document waiving or acknowledging service of divorce papers.

In most states, your spouse will also sign a Settlement Agreement, sometimes called a Separation Agreement. The signatures on the Agreement may require notarization. Additionally, if you have minor children together, your spouse will also sign a Parenting Plan, and in most states that must be signed in front of a Notary Public. Your state may also require your spouse to sign other documents such as a Financial Affidavit. The table below lists the documents you’ll receive that require the non-filing spouse’s signature in your state. The spouse who did not file for divorce is called the Respondent or Defendant.

It's true that divorce by default requires few or no documents be signed by the responding spouse. However, divorce by default often requires the filing spouse to attend a hearing to get the judge to sign the order of default, even in states where no hearing is required to finalize an uncontested divorce when it's by agreement. You'll also need to formally serve your spouse with divorce papers if they won’t sign the waiver or acknowledgment of service used in your state. In many states, that means hiring the Sheriff where your spouse lives or a private process server to hand delivery divorce papers. Information on how to serve divorce papers in your state is available here.

Divorce by agreement is also usually faster than divorce by default. The laws of each state give the non-filing spouse a certain amount of time (usually 20-60 days) to file a responsive pleading (ex. Answer) after being served with divorce papers. During this period of time, the divorce cannot proceed. When the non-filing spouse signs a waiver or acceptance/acknowledgment of service, they can waive the response period so the divorce can be finalized sooner, often several weeks sooner.

Does my spouse have to go to court?

The responding spouse is always entitled to advance notice of the hearing date and time unless it was waived in writing earlier. After that, whether they attend is usually up to them. Many states don’t require either spouse to attend a hearing to finalize a divorce. In states that require a hearing generally only the spouse who filed for divorce needs to attend. One exception is in states that offer a joint divorce where both spouses sign the petition for divorce and both must attend the hearing. In those states you can usually get the respondent's presence excused by filing a request or calling.

What if we have minor children together?

If your county requires a parenting course to get a divorce, both spouses will need to attend. More information on parenting class requirements for your state is available here.

What documents does my spouse sign? Is notarization required?

In many states, uncontested divorce documents require notarization. Most banks provide free notary services to accountholders, which is the easiest way to get it done. UPS and Fed Ex stores also have notaries on staff although they charge a fee for the service. Call ahead to confirm a Notary will be available when you go or schedule an appointment online. Your spouse will need to present valid government-issued photo identification and must be in front of the Notary Public when signing the document. Depending on where they work, your spouse’s employer may have a notary on staff who will notarize documents for free. The Notary is not supposed to read or review the documents, only be present when they are signed. The Notary also fills out the notary section.

If you and your spouse have minor children together, the responding spouse will sign the Parenting Plan. In some states, the Parenting Plan is part of the Settlement Agreement intead of a separate document. Notarization is often required on those documents.

StateDocuments for Your Spouse to Sign
Alaska Both spouses sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in front of a Notary Public. Since it is a joint petition, both spouses must go to hearing, but documents will be provided if the responding spouse can’t attend.
AlabamaDefendant signs a multi-purpose form called an Answer, Waiver and Agreement for Taking Testimony in front of a Notary Public. Defendant also signs Defendant’s Child Support Obligation Income Statement/Affidavit (CS-41), even if the parties do not have minor children.
ArizonaRespondent signs the Acceptance of Service in front of a Notary Public, pays the Response fee (approximately $200.00-$300.00), and signs the Consent Decree. In the alternative, to finalize the divorce by default, Petitioner needs to formally serve divorce papers. Petitioner will also need to attend a default hearing.
Arkansas Defendant signs the following documents in front of a Notary Public:
Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons
Answer to Complaint for Divorce
Affidavit of Financial Means
Property Settlement Agreement
If Defendant is unable to attend the hearing, he/she should contact the Clerk of the Court in the county where the divorce was filed.
California Respondent signs a Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140), Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150),and Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142) and exchanges them with the Petitioner, but are not filed with the Clerk.
Respondent also signs a Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144). If you serve your spouse by mail instead of in person, Respondent must also sign a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (FL-117).
Because CA charges a response fee of $300-$400.00 to file a Response, the divorce is finalized using the default process unless the Respondent is in the military because it isn’t allowed although the response fee is automatically waived for active-duty service members.
ColoradoRespondent signs the Verification at the end of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Respondent also signs the following documents:
Financial Statement (JDF 1111)
Supporting Schedules for Assets (JDF 1111-SS)
Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Financial Disclosures (JDF 1104)
Spousal Maintenance Advisement
Separation Agreement
Connecticut Defendant signs an Appearance (JD-CL-12), Case Management Agreement, and Financial Affidavit (JD-FM-6) in front of a Notary Public. The Financial Affidavits are exchanged with the other spouse. Respondent also signs a Dissolution Agreement (JD-FM-172).
DelawareThe Respondent signs the Separation Agreement, the Stipulation to Incorporate the Separation Agreement and an Answer to Petition for Divorce in front of a Notary Public.
District of ColumbiaThe Defendant signs an Answer to Complaint for Absolute Divorce, the Separation Agreement and a Joint Waiver of Appeal of Divorce Order/Judgment.
FloridaExcept for simplified divorce filers, the Respondent must be served by a Sheriff or private process server. Respondent also signs the following in front of a Notary Public:
Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgment
Financial Affidavit
Notice of Social Security Number
Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure
Marital Settlement Agreement
With simplified divorce, both spouses sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Marital Settlement Agreement in front of a Notary Public and both must attend the divorce hearing.
Georgia Respondent signs the following in front of a Notary Public:
Financial Affidavit
Settlement Agreement
Consent to Trial 31 Days after Service and Waiver of Right to Trial
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction and Venue, and Consent to Present Case
Defendant also signs a Child Support Order Addendum if there are minor children.
Hawaii Defendant signs the following:
Appearance and Waiver
Income and Expense Statement
Asset and Debt Statement
Divorce Decree
Defendant also signs the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, if there are minor children.
Idaho Defendant signs an Acknowledgement of Service and a Sworn Stipulation for Entry of Decree of Divorce in front of a Notary Public.
IllinoisRespondent signs the following documents in front of a Notary Public:
Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent a Stipulation for Uncontested Hearing
Marital Settlement Agreement
Financial Affidavit
Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
If the parties qualify for simplified dissolution, both spouses attend the divorce hearing and both spouses will sign the Petition instead of filing Respondent’s Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent.
Indiana Respondent signs a Verified Waiver of Final Hearing, and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and Settlement Agreement and also a Child Support Obligation Worksheet, if there are minor children.
Iowa Respondent signs an Acceptance of Service of Original Notice.br />For divorce by agreement, Respondent signs an Answer to the Petition (Form 215), Financial Affidavit, Settlement Agreement, and Child Support Worksheet if there are minor children.
For divorce by default, if Respondent’s Answer is not filed within 20 days from the date that Respondent’s Acceptance of Service was filed with the Clerk’s office, Petitioner can ask the court for a Decree by default. After the 20-day answer period has passed, Petitioner must then give Respondent ten (10) days’ notice in writing that Petitioner intends to ask the Court for a divorce Decree by default.
Kansas Respondent signs the following documents in front of a Notary Public:
a Marital Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Entry of Appearance
Answer to Petition for Divorce
Domestic Relations Affidavit
If the Defendant is unable to attend the hearing, it is best to notify the Clerk of the District Court that the Defendant is unable to attend and to find out what options are available or what further steps to take.
Kentucky The Respondent signs a Preliminary Verified Disclosure Statement, Marital Settlement Agreement, and an Agreed Order to Submit in front of a Notary Public.
LouisianaThe Respondent signs an Acceptance of Service and Waiver of Citation and All Delays, and Settlement Agreement.
In 102 divorce, the Defendant also signs a Acceptance and Waiver of Service of Rule to Show Cause.
In 103 divorce, the Defendant signs a Joint Stipulation and Consent Judgment for Partition of Community, but only if you listed property, debt or spousal support).
MaineDefendant signs an Entry of Appearance and a Certificate in Lieu of Financial Statement. Defendant signs the Settlement Agreement and a Child Support Affidavit in front of a Notary Public.
Maryland Defendant signs the following:
Answer to Complaint
Financial Affidavit
Joint Statement of Parties Concerning Marital and Non-Marital Property
Joint Request to Schedule an Uncontested Divorce Hearing
Submission of Judgment for Divorce
Massachusetts Respondent signs the Joint Petition for Divorce and an Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown. Respondent also signs a Financial Statement and a Separation Agreement in front of a Notary Public.
Both spouses attend the hearing to finalize the divorce. If the Respondent is unable to attend due to living such a distance away that that is would be excessively cost prohibitive to travel to the hearing, Respondent signs an Affidavit to Waive Appearance at 1A Hearing.
MichiganDefendant signs an Acknowledgment of Service. Active-duty military Defendants also sign an Appearance and Waiver of Military Relief Law Rights. If spousal support is ordered, Defendant signs a Uniform Spousal Support Order.
MinnesotaBoth spouses sign the Joint Petition, Agreement, and Judgment and Decree for Marriage Dissolution With Children. Both spouses attend the hearing to finalize the divorce. If one spouse is unable to attend the hearing in person, it is possible to request to attend the hearing via telephone.
Mississippi Respondent signs a Joint Complaint for Divorce and a Settlement Agreement in front of a Notary Public. Respondent also signs the Financial Statement, Certificate of Compliance, and the Final Judgment.
If you have minor children together, the Respondent signs the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement (UCCJEA) Affidavit. Both spouses must attend the divorce hearing. If Co-Plaintiff cannot attend the hearing, contact the Clerk of the Chancery Court.
MontanaRespondent signs the following in front of a Notary Public:
Joint Petition for Dissolution
Final Declaration of Disclosure of Assets, Debts, Income and Expenses
Marital and Property Settlement Agreement
Respondent also signs the following:
Sensitive Data Form
Request for Hearing and Order Granting Hearing
If Respondent can’t attend the hearing to finalize the divorce, Respondent also signs a Consent to Entry of Decree and Notice of Entry of Decree.
NebraskaDefendant signs a Voluntary Appearance.
Nevada Respondent signs the Joint Petition for Summary Decree of Divorce and a Personal Case Information Form in front of a Notary Public. Respondent also signs a Joint Request for Submission (except Clark County) and the Decree of Divorce.
New HampshireRespondent signs the Joint Petition for Divorce and Financial Affidavit in front of a Notary Public and also signs the Personal Data Sheet. If there are minor children, Respondent signs the Uniform Support Order in front of a witness. The witness does not have to be a Notary Public. Both spouses attend the First Appearance Session. The First Appearance Session is different from a hearing in that it is primarily for informational purposes. The Judge or Master will use this as an opportunity to explain the court process.
New Jersey Defendant signs an Acknowledgment of Service in front of a Notary Public.
New MexicoRespondent signs the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Marital Settlement Agreement in front of a Notary Public. Respondent also signs the Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If there are any minor children, Respondent signs the Child Support Worksheet and also a Wage Withholding Order, if applicable.
New YorkDefendant signs an Affidavit of Defendant and the Marital Settlement Agreement in front of a Notary Public.
North Carolina Defendant signs the Separation Agreement in front of a Notary Public.
North Dakota Defendant signs the Settlement Agreement, Admission of Service, and Defendant’s Answer in front of a Notary Public.
OhioOhio has separate procedures for a dissolution of marriage and divorce. If you file for dissolution of marriage, both spouses attend the divorce hearing and sign several forms.
If you file for divorce, only one spouse attends the hearing, and Defendant signs Waiver of Service of Summons as well as an Answer and also the Parenting Judgment Entry if there are minor children.
OklahomaRespondent signs a Waiver of Summons and Entry of Appearance and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage in front of a Notary Public. Respondent also signs a Child Support Worksheet if there are minor children.
OregonRespondent signs the following:
Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Certificate re: Pending Child Support Proceedings and/or Existing Child Support Orders/Judgments
Family Law Confidential Information Form (CIF) UTCR 2.130.1
Co-Petitioner's Ex Parte Motion for Order Allowing Entry of Judgment on Declaration in Lieu of Hearing
Co-Petitioner's Declaration Supporting Judgment of Dissolution
General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
In some counties, Respondent will also sign an Acknowledgment about Dissolution.
Pennsylvania Defendant signs an Acceptance of Service, Affidavit of Consent, and a Waiver of Notice of Intention to Request Entry of a Divorce Decree. If the parties have minor children or list property or debts, Defendant signs the Property Settlement Agreement in front of a Notary Public.
Rhode IslandDefendant signs an Entry of Appearance, Marital Settlement Agreement and Final Declaration as well as a UCCJEA Affidavit if there are minor children. Defendant also signs an Answer to Complaint for Divorce and a Statement of Assets in front of a Notary Public.
South Carolina Defendant can either sign the Acceptance of Service or Plaintiff must serve by certified mail, restricted delivery with return-receipt requested. Defendant signs the following in front of a Notary Public:
Marital Settlement Agreement
Final Declaration
Defendant also signs an Answer.
However, if Defendant’s Answer isn’t filed within thirty-five (35) days from the day your spouse was served, Plaintiff will instead file documents for default.
South DakotaDefendant signs the following in front of a Notary Public:
Admission of Service of Summons and Complaint
Case Filing Statement (Defendant)
Answer
Affidavit of Service by Mailing
Financial Affidavit (Defendant)
Affidavit as to Jurisdiction and Grounds for Divorce
Stipulation and Settlement with Children
Tennessee Defendant signs the following documents in front of a Notary Public:
Request for Divorce (Complaint) Form 1 (If you have real estate, retirement accounts or business interests, you will receive a Complaint for Divorce instead, which does not need to be signed by Defendant.)
Divorce Agreement (Marital Dissolution Agreement) Form 5
Parenting Plan
Defendant also signs the following documents:
Restraining Order for Divorcing Spouses Form 7
Final Decree of Divorce
Texas Respondent then signs the Waiver of Service of Citation in front of a Notary Public. Both spouses must date and sign the Decree. The Respondent must have his or her signature on the Decree notarized if he or she will not be present at the hearing. If Respondent will attend the hearing, the signature doesn’t require notarization.
UtahRespondent signs the Non-Public Information – Parent Identification and Location form and also the Stipulation.
Vermont Defendant signs the Acceptance of Service (Form 29), and Notice of Appearance. Defendant also signs the Financial Affidavit 813A and 813B in front of a Notary Public and attaches last four pay stubs from employment (or monthly income and expense statements (documents) if self-employed, and last-filed income tax return.
If your county allows the parties to waive the divorce hearing, Defendant must sign the Stipulation and Motion to Waive Final Hearing (Form 841) in front of a Notary Public. If there are minor children, the Defendant also signs the Child Support Order (Form 802).
VirginiaDefendant signs an Acceptance/Waiver of Service of Process and also a Property Settlement and Separation Agreement in front of a Notary Public. If there are no minor children of the marriage, signing the Agreement allows the divorce to be finalized six months sooner in Virginia. Active duty military Defendant will sign a Defendant’s Waiver of Rights Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. If Defendant wants a name change, they will sign a Motion and Order for Restoration of Name.
WashingtonRespondent signs the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and also the Final Divorce Order (Decree of Dissolution). Respondent also signs the Findings and Conclusions about a Marriage in front of a Notary Public. If there are minor children, Respondent also signs the Child Support Order and Child Support Worksheet. Neither spouse has to go to court and the divorce can be completed entirely by mail.
West Virginia Respondent signs following documents in front of a Notary Public:
Marital Settlement Agreement
Acceptance of Service
Answer to Petition for Divorce
Financial Statement
Respondent also signs a Civil Case Information Sheet as well as a Bureau for Child Support Enforcement Application and Income Withholding Form, if the parties have minor children together.
WisconsinThe responding spouse is a co-petitioner and signs the Joint Petition in front of a Notary Public and also sign a Confidential Petition Addendum. The responding spouse also signs a Financial Disclosure Statement of Joint Petitioner and attaches a statement of current annual income, most recent W-2, and verification of income for three (3) months. Joint Petitioner signs the Marital Settlement Agreement and if there are minor children, provides information on a Family Medical History Questionnaire. Joint petitioner also signs the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment.
WyomingDefendant signs an Acknowledgment and Acceptance of Service and a Confidential Financial Affidavit in front of a Notary Public. Defendant attaches latest paystub, proof of medical insurance for the minor children, if any, and last two years of income tax returns and W-2s. Defendant also signs an Answer to Complaint for Divorce.
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