Wife won't sign separation agreement - what next?


I drew up a separation agreement, but my wife will not sign it. I have tried to negotiate terms, and changed some things, but she still refuses to sign. We have a house, a child, and are currently paying off a bankruptcy. What steps should I take next?

If I hire an attorney, would s/he be able to make my wife sign a separation agreement? Or should I just move out, and wait and see what she does next (if anything, since she does not have the money to hire her own attorney, as far as I know)? If I do leave, would she be able to take me to court for abandonment? I intend to continue to pay the monthly bankruptcy payments, which includes the mortgage, so financially speaking, I would not be leaving her without means of support.

Thanks for your help.


If you do not have a property settlement in place you need to file a claim for equitable distribution along with your divorce. After the divorce is granted you will lose your rights to have the court distribute your marital property unless a claim is pending. If she continues to refuse to sign a separation agreement you will need to file suit for Equitable Distribution, Child Custody, Child Support and Spousal Support if applicable. No one, not even the court, can force her to sign an agreement.

A claim of abandonment, while encompassing more than economic factors, does not carry much weight in court these days, and many spouses leave the home prior to having an agreement in effect, especially if the monthly bills for the dependent spouse are taken care of.


Thank you again for your help, Ms. Russ.

You said that I would need to file suit for Equitable Distribution of property, etc., but it is a requirement under the law? I am planning to let my wife have everything - the house, everything in it, her vehicle, primary custody of our child, etc. - so if I choose to just move out and do nothing (except finish paying off the bankruptcy and maintain the bills at the marital home), would she have any grounds to take legal action against me during the separation period?

I don’t really have the money to hire a lawyer at this time, and I don’t want to have anything tied up in the courts (as I am a long-distance truck driver who is gone away most of the week). I just want to get on with the separation so that we can divorce.

I really appreciate your help!


You do not have to file for ED. If you want your wife to have everything, then you have no need to file. Just be aware that once your divorce is finalized, you are forever estopped from seeking ED in this case.