Little children go through a biting stage. Frustrated, unable to wield words and angered that other humans are not complying, they bite. They bite other children; they bite caregivers and preschool teachers. It is a petulance and stubbornness most of us outgrow. When cornered by adult worries, though, we sometimes revert to very infantile choices, like refusing to sign divorce papers when both spouses know the marriage is over.

She Doesn’t Have to Be Willing … Don’t Submit to Her Tantrums

Divorce is extremely stressful; few people would say they actually enjoyed going through all the proceedings and paperwork of a divorce. Natural reactions to divorce are the same as to any stressor:

  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Regret
  • Helplessness
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Bargaining
  • Acceptance

Many wives become hot with fury, and lash out. They throw adult tantrums, like locking you out of your own house, refusing to comply with subpoenas, ignoring service of papers, and preventing your contact with your own children.

You need to be at peace with yourself. She does not have to be a willing party to your divorce, though the proceedings will go more smoothly if she is. Once you two are legally separated for six months (with no children) or a year (with children), you can file for divorce in Virginia.

Be Assertive … Her Resistance is Futile

Parents learn the difference between aggressive and assertive behavior quickly enough. You as a parent have to assert your power over your child. Lawyers are, in one way, like “super-adults,” in that we can use the law to assert power over an uncooperative wife.

From your perspective, her actions and reactions will no longer matter once you file for divorce. You may hope for an uncontested divorce that, essentially, entails signing a property settlement agreement and you are nearly done. Yet even if she resists that, you can file for a contested divorce.

Worn Down: The Contested Divorce

Children think they are experts at wearing down parents (okay, sometimes they are). “Can I have it? Can I have it? CanIhaveit?” After the 100th time from the first child, you might crack. By the time the third offspring uncorks that whine, it has not aged well. You cut it off before it starts: “If you ask me again you not only will never get it, you will not get the next three things you ask me for.” Silence. The kid hoped to wear you down, but you got there first.

A similar wearing-down strategy is at work with a contested divorce. Your wife has to spend time and money fighting every little thing. The pendente lite hearing, discovery, and on and on. Often she will simply fold, realizing she has neither the time nor money to keep fighting. She will switch to an uncontested divorce and away you go!

In this Case, Pleading is a Good Thing

Kids plead all the time. They want to stay up late. They want more ice cream. They did not pull the cat’s tail. A legal pleading is not quite the same thing. Your divorce cannot proceed until you inform the right Virginia court (usually, the one in the county or city of your legal residence) that you want a divorce.

Your wife will be served divorce papers. She does not have to sign for them (a process server is not the UPS guy). She simply has to receive them, and process servers are relentless. She will have some time to plead her case to the court (not to you), usually through her own attorney.

No Time Out

Kids hate time out, but so do most parents. Guilt riddles the parent; the kid, bored, draws on the wall. The parent can never be fully engaged in some other, useful chore, because you are always listening out for the kid in time out to start crying, or (perhaps worse) grow eerily silent.

Adults hate time out, too. With no-fault divorce, you and your wife must have a time out (a legal separation) of either half a year or a full year. Yet you can also divorce with no time out, if you can prove fault grounds. Your wife has to have done some fairly horrid stuff, though:

  • Adultery
  • Buggery
  • Sodomy
  • Convicted of a felony with incarceration of a year or more

If she has had a dalliance with a dog, for example, you do not need her signature (or the dog’s) for anything, and no Virginia judge will stand in your way. Hey, it happens.

These fault grounds are listed in Code of Virginia §20-91 and are standard stuff around law offices. The clock starts as soon as the filing is done, with or without her consent.

Oh, Those Papers …

Children are forgetful, but they are masters of shifting blame for their forgetfulness.

  • “Did you bring home your report card?”
  • “What report card?”
  • “The school sent home a notice last week that said report cards would come home today.”
  • “Oh, that report card.”

You may be pursuing a property settlement agreement and counting on her signature for those papers. The only reason you and your trusted attorney are trying that route is to expedite the divorce, so if she refuses to sign, you move on with the divorce anyway.

You litigate it, and she can either come to court with her lawyer, or stubbornly refuse to even show up. If both of you are in court, each attorney presents your arguments and the judge likely grants the divorce. She has nothing to sign.

Who is the Adult Here?

Take the high road and contact The Firm for Men, or call us at 757-383-9184. We can help you deal with irrational behavior, frustration, anger and a host of other emotions. Whether they come from you or from your wife, we can listen, guide, and advise. And we hardly ever put anybody in time-out.

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