What can I do if my wife is demanding a divorce when I agreed to a separation? 29 Answers as of September 08, 2011

My wife handed me a final divorce decree 10 days ago. I don't have an attorney and I did not expect this. I thought we were separating for a couple months. She moved out and left me with a majority of our bills, but mainly mortgage. Now she demands I sell the house and demands child support. I want my two girls living with me 50% if not more. The decree she showed me is pushing for everything she wants. What about my rights? She's doing everything possible to limit my time with my girls. I've been majorly involved in our girls lives. From coaching teams they played for in sports to getting them to doctors appointments. My wife is an elementary school teacher and doesn't have a lot of free time. Her time with our girls is taking them to a movie on the weekend. I need to protect myself and my time with my girls.

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Reza Athari & Associates, PLLC | Seth L. Reszko
Of course it would probably be best for you to retain an attorney who will protect your rights and advocate for you. However, if you are unable to do that, perhaps you could provide your own Divorce Decree with provisions that are more favorable to you, or at least fair to both parties. There is probably a self-help center at the family court in your jurisdiction where you can obtain sample pleadings to assist you. In general, parents are entitled equal custody of their children. Be careful when entering into a divorce decree because it is a final order that the court, law enforcement, schools etc. will look to when determining the terms of the divorce and it cannot be changed easily.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 9/8/2011
Horizons Law Group, LLC
Horizons Law Group, LLC | Michelle B. Fitzgerald
You need to become involved in the court process. She likely only gave you what she PROPOSES to be the final decree - but a judge has to decide that. You can also submit your own proposal and be sure to attend the hearings - they are listed on the website through wicourts.gov for wisconsin divorce cases. She can ask for a divorce even though you only want a separation.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 9/8/2011
Michael D. Fluke, P.A.
Michael D. Fluke, P.A. | Michael D. Fluke
If your wife has an actual decree, which would be titled a Final Judgment, then this has been done and you must take immediate action to attempt to get this set aside. If this is merely paperwork, then one of you has to start the divorce process. I suggest you consult an experienced Family Law attorney immediately to discuss your case in greater detail and learn all of your rights and options. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 9/8/2011
Michael Rose Attorney at Law
Michael Rose Attorney at Law | Michael Rose
It is hard to tell from what you wrote if the paper she handed you is the final paper. Usually one will petition for a divorce and the other responds. If she did petition for a divorce you have to respond to be a part of the divorce. Then come a hearing for the children. Or if you did not respond then she can default you because you did not answer.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 9/8/2011
Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C.
Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C. | Karen A. Clark
A Final Dissolution Order (Decree) is very different from a Petition for Dissolution. If she has served you with the Dissolution Petition and Summons, then the terms of the dissolution and any custody orders have not been finalized. Although it is possible to dissolve a marriage (after 91 days) without the agreement or signature of the respondent, the court usually requires a response from the respondent before it enters any permanent custody orders. I would strongly suggest that you contact an attorney immediately to review the paperwork that your (ex-?) spouse gave you. It would be wise not to sign or agree to anything until you have discussed your situation with an attorney.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 9/8/2011
    Lori C. Obenauf LLC
    Lori C. Obenauf LLC | Lori C. Obenauf
    If a Judge has signed the Final Divorce Decree that your wife is presenting you, then you may already be divorced. If the document your wife is showing you is a Complaint for Divorce, then you need to hire an attorney and respond to it within the time limitations indicated in the summons. The best way you can protect yourself is to see an experienced attorney, show him or her the papers your wife has given you, and discuss how you should proceed.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    You need to hire a lawyer. First, it takes two to be married, one to quit. Stated another way, marriage is more work than you can do on your own, if she does not want to work on the marriage, you are getting the divorce. Second, you do not have to agree with what she wants. You are entitled to ask for stuff too, so DO NOT SIGN HER PAPERS. Get your own lawyer and fight for your children.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    The Law Office of Erin Farley
    The Law Office of Erin Farley | Erin Farley
    I do not know what you mean by, "final divorce decree". I can only assume that your Wife filed a "petition" for divorce, and in that petition she stated what she wants as a judgment. If so, you now need to file a Response to the petition stating what you want and what you think is best for your children. There are time limits on your response - here, it's 30 days. You can also file an Order to Show Cause requesting an equal timeshare with your children. It sounds like there may be a paperwork misunderstanding here - I hope that a "default" judgement was not taken without your knowledge. Even if that happened, you may have remedies, but you need to act fast. (As to custody, remember that custody can be modified until the children are adults.) I urge you to contact an attorney and get this sorted out. Bring all of your paperwork. Good Luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    The Law Offices of Mandy J. McKellar
    The Law Offices of Mandy J. McKellar | Mandy J. McKellar
    There are too many items going on her to be responded to by email. My best recommendation would be to set up a time to speak with an attorney, even if it is a free consultation to get some direction on how you should go about this.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    It sounds like you were just served with a divorce complaint, not a final decree, which is what you receive at the conclusion of the matter. You should consult with an attorney in your area as soon as possible, before the return date that can be found on the paperwork you received.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A.
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A. | Joanna Mitchell
    You need to hire an attorney immediately to determine and protect your rights; otherwise, you could suffer irreparable loss of rights and property.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
    Sounds like you should immediately take that divorce decree to a skilled family law attorney so you can take action on setting aside any judgment or court orders. Delay will only further prejudice your rights and legal options. You should also be filing a motion to establish fair custody and visitation arrangements with your children.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    You need to hire an attorney. Obviously, you are in over your head.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Holmes Law Offices
    Holmes Law Offices | Martin M. Holmes
    You need to get an attorney right away! ASAP! Before the judgment enters and before the trial date.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Arnold & Wadsworth
    Arnold & Wadsworth | Brian Arnold
    It sounds like it is time to lawyer up. You are not going to get those things without putting up a fight. You may want to try mediation to see if that helps.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Fox Law Firm LLC
    Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
    You need an attorney that will fight for your rights.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    You have your terminology confused I believe. Your spouse could not have handed you a divorce decree since a divorce decree is the final order that a court enters at the end of a divorce. She likely served you with a Summons and Petition commencing a court action and requesting relief which includes custody. You should immediately hire legal counsel and file a an Answer to the Petition. You have 30 days to do so or your spouse may be able to seek a divorce by default which means the court treats it as uncontested.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    Fight what she is asking. Seek temporary orders giving you want you want. Then hold out for what you want for a final settlement or at trial.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Law Office of Patricia Van Haren
    Law Office of Patricia Van Haren | Patricia Van Haren
    It sounds like you need a family law attorney right away. You are not required to sign anything that you are presented with. You cannot stop the divorce from happening but you can take steps to protect your interests. You should file an OSC for Custody/Visitation as well as reimbursements you may be entitled to.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    A decree is a final court order from the court. It sounds like she showed you a decree hoping you would sign it then file it as an "agreed order." In Arkansas there are two ways to get a divorce, with grounds or no-fault after an 18 month separation. The first step is to file a "petition or complaint for divorce." It must be served on the other party by a process server, your spouse cannot serve you. Next, when there are children involved, is to schedule a temporary hearing where temporary custody and support are granted. What you are expressing is joint custody with 50/50 parenting and custodial care and is becoming more common although it can get very complicated down the road as each party's personal lives change. If divorce is on the horizon you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options and how best to achieve the best outcome possible.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    If there is a final divorce decree you waited way too long to ask for help. You needed a lawyer when the case was filed. Asking when the case is over, and if there is a final decree, it is over, makes no sense. The rest of your post contradicts the first part. If three is a final decree, support and custody are already decided. Then you say she's asking for it. Which is it? We can't answer you as you posted. (If the case is still pending, get a lawyer. You need one badly.)
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    If your wife handed you a divorce decree that has been filed and entered by the Court, it would appear that you were served with a Petition for divorce, not for separation, and that you allowed your default to be taken. You should immediately schedule an appointment with an experienced Family Law Attorney to evaluate the case to determine whether youhave the time and grounds toseek to set aside the Judgment. There is no time to lose!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Elizabeth Jones, A Professional Corporation
    Elizabeth Jones, A Professional Corporation | Elizabeth Jones
    You need an attorney to protect your rights and help you with legal and physical custody issues. Do not sign anything without the advise of an attorney. This is a community property state and the community is divided 50/50. The Best Interests of the Children is what the court will consider when making custody decisions. It sounds like she is playing hardball. Get an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy | Robert W. Bellamy
    Get a lawyer quick or lose everything.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    If you are a Colorado court, there is nothing you can do to prevent the marriage being dissolved. A legal separation requires agreement of both parties. It is a little difficult to believe that your wife has already obtained a final divorce decree (at least in Colo) without your knowledge and participation. There should have been a court hearing and you should have been notified and appeared to represent yourself. If you did not know and failed to represent yourself, it may be possible to set aside the terms of the divorce, especially the parenting plan. You definitely need to consult an attorney who can examine the situation fully and provide you advice as to your options.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 9/7/2011
    Hugo Florido ESQ.
    Hugo Florido ESQ. | Hugo Florido
    Florida is a not fault state, which means if she finds the marriage to be irretrievably broken there is nothing you can do to remain married. Florida does not recognize separations. You have another 10 days to respond. I suggest you hire an attorney promptly to prepare a response and a counter-petition.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 9/7/2011
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