what if my spouse doesn't want a divorce?Divorce is a life-changing and emotional event in a couple’s life.  Each spouse often feels very differently about the transition that is about to unfold and experiences a vast range of emotions such as – sadness, regret, apprehension, anxiety, fear of the future, embarrassment, and anger.  If you have made up your mind and are moving forward with the divorce, even if your husband or wife doesn’t want the divorce to happen – or says he or she “refuses” to give you a divorce – they cannot actually prevent the divorce from moving forward. Obviously, it’s easier (and often more cost-efficient) if both of you agree to ending the marriage – but one way or another, your husband or wife can’t legally prevent the divorce from going forward.  Please note, however, that in some situations, your spouse may try to stall and drag the case out.  Below are eight steps that New Hampshire residents can take to move the divorce forward when they are dealing with a spouse who is resistant to the divorce:

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 1: 

Hire a trusted and experienced divorce attorney that specializes in family law.  Make sure the lawyer understands that your husband or wife is opposed to the divorce and may try to make things difficult or prolong the case.  Your attorney will file a Petition for Divorce in the New Hampshire Circuit Court – Family Division based on where you reside.  Circuit Court locations include Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Goffstown, Merrimack, Hooksett, Franklin, Hillsborough, Derry, Brentwood, and Salem.  The court will notify the other spouse of the filing, and if you have minor children, it will schedule you both to attend a “First Appearance.”

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 2:

If you have children who are minors, attend the “First Appearance” with your divorce attorney.  This is a hearing at which a New Hampshire Circuit Court judge explains the process for you to obtain “custody,” now called “parental rights and responsibilities,” in your divorce.  Your rights and responsibilities as a parent are described in a document called a “Parenting Plan,” which is ultimately an order issued by the court.  The Parenting Plan includes issues such as who makes decisions for your children, when the kids reside with each parent, and where they attend school.  Also at the “First Appearance,” both spouses get scheduled to attend mediation.  At a mediation session, a mediator, who is a neutral third party, helps you resolve your differences and agree on a Parenting Plan and child support.  The mediator will also help you reach agreement on the division of marital property – including the home, financial accounts, investments, and retirement assets.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 3: 

Attend the mediation session with your divorce attorney at your side.  Even if you and your spouse generally agree on the terms of your divorce, it’s critical to have your lawyer accompany you to mediation because he or she will ensure that the terms of your divorce are consistent with the outcome you and your children need and deserve.  If at mediation you successfully work out all the issues in your divorce, the mediator will help draft a document that finalizes your divorce – called a Final Decree on Petition for Divorce.  If you agree on only some of the issues, for example just the parenting issues, the mediator will help draft a partial agreement and will notify the court that to resolve the outstanding issues, something called a “Temporary Hearing” needs to be scheduled.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 4:

If you and your spouse don’t resolve all divorce issues in mediation, you will need to meet with your divorce lawyer to help prepare for the Temporary Hearing.  This hearing is critical to your and your children’s future because the presentation delivered by your divorce attorney and the documents filed on your behalf will influence the temporary orders the New Hampshire Circuit Court makes on issues including decision-making responsibility, residential responsibility, child support, use of the family home, and alimony.  Though temporary, quite often in divorce cases in New Hampshire, orders can remain in effect for months or in some cases years – until there are final orders.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 5:

Attend the Temporary Hearing with your lawyer.  Your attorney has about 15 minutes to present your proposals to the judge.  You can expect your lawyer to address issues directly affecting your children’s and your future – including who makes major decisions for your kids, which spouse lives in the house, when the children reside with each parent, where the kids attend school, how much child support gets paid, how much alimony gets paid, who takes the children as tax exemptions on tax returns, which spouse carries health and life insurance for you and the kids, and who pays the kids’ uninsured medical and dental expenses.  The court will also schedule the next hearing, which is typically a Pretrial Conference.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 6: 

Before you attend the Pretrial Conference, it is critical to meet with your divorce attorney to prepare and strategize for the Pretrial Conference.  At this “prep” meeting, you and your divorce lawyer will decide which witnesses you want to testify on your behalf at the Final Divorce Hearing.  Additionally, you will confirm and finalize all of the documents supporting your case that you’ll submit as “exhibits”.  Last, your divorce attorney will draft proposed final orders to be filed with the court on issues similar to those presented at the Temporary Hearing (as listed above in Step 5) as well as on the division of marital property – the house and other real estate, financial accounts, investments and securities, and retirement assets.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 7: 

You will next attend the Pretrial Conference with your divorce lawyer.  Here, you and your attorney will review your spouse’s pretrial documents so that you know what they are proposing for final orders, which witnesses will testify, and which exhibits they plan to introduce into evidence at the Final Hearing.

I live in New Hampshire and My Spouse is Opposing Our Divorce from Moving Forward – Step 8:

Reconvene with your divorce lawyer to prepare for the Final Hearing.  Now, having had a chance to review and understand what your spouse is seeking, you will finalize your strategy for the last hearing.  The Final Hearing is different from the Temporary Hearing in that the Final Hearing is where you and your witnesses take the stand, give testimony, and answer questions posed by both divorce attorneys.  Your testimony and that of your witnesses is crucial because based on this testimony, the judge will issue final orders that impact your future and your kids’ future.  As a result of this hearing, you will receive a Final Decree on Petition for Divorce issued by the court within weeks (and if the court is backed up perhaps months) after the Final Hearing.

For immediate expert feedback (and a confidential perspective about your situation), please contact Attorney Grabler directly at (603) 669-2933. The call is free. She will help assess the specifics of your case. She will recommend the best course of action. Prefer email? Write to her: here.


This FAQ brought to you by Attorney Edrea M. Grabler of Family Law New Hampshire.
Manchester, NH divorce lawyer Edrea M. Grabler helps New Hampshire families in divorce, custody and property cases. Whether you’re getting divorced in Manchester, Nashua, Concord or in any city in the State of New Hampshire, Attorney Edrea M. Grabler is a lawyer who helps divorce clients get the custody, property and way of life they deserve. Are you considering divorce? Do you need changes or “modifications” to your divorce? Do you have a specific question about divorce — perhaps alimony, custody or property? Whether you’re just beginning to think about getting a divorce or you need to hire a divorce lawyer immediately, pick up the phone and call Edrea M. Grabler at Family Law New Hampshire for a free consultation. Attorney Edrea M. Grabler has over 20 years experience in helping fathers, mothers and families obtain their best possible custody, property and financial outcomes in New Hampshire divorce cases.