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What happens if one spouse does not want to be divorced?

As divorce attorneys, we sometimes receive questions about what would happen if a spouse who did not want a divorce was served with a divorce petition. Could the spouse ignore it and still hold out hope for the marriage? Could the marriage still be valid from a religious standpoint even though legal papers have been filed?

As a matter of law, once a disgruntled spouse files for a divorce, there is little (if anything) that the other spouse can do to prevent the matter from moving forward, even if they refuse to participate. If the other spouse does not show up or fails to attend court hearings or mediation sessions, the court could grant a divorce by default.

However, despite the legal ramifications of a divorce issued by the court, there are certain religious circles that will not recognize a divorce unless the religious elements are satisfied. For example, if an Orthodox Jewish woman does not receive permission from her husband to be divorced, she will still be considered to be married to her man, and could be seen as an adulteress regardless of the state of her marriage.

In fact, several men are being prosecuted in federal court for their roles in kidnapping and threatening Orthodox Jewish husbands in attempts to coerce them into granting divorces to their wives.

Nevertheless, the process of initiating a divorce can be complicated, especially considering the logistical and emotional issues involved. If you have questions about starting a divorce, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Source:, Judge sets bail for Jewish scribe, 3 others in kidnapping case, October 17, 2013

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