Realizing that one’s marriage has irretrievably broken down can leave individuals overwhelmed with emotions, from sadness to anger. And deciding to end the marriage and seek a divorce is not any easier.

All of this can become even more stressful for an individual if their spouse does not want to get a divorce. But many people might wonder: is it still possible to file for divorce if one spouse does not agree?

No one can prevent you from filing for divorce

There are a few requirements that individuals must meet to obtain a divorce in California, including:

  1. The individual or their spouse must have been a resident of California for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition; and
  2. The individual or their spouse must have lived in the county in which they plan to file their divorce for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition.

However, these residency requirements are the only criteria to meet. It is not necessary for both spouses to agree to the divorce.

So, essentially, someone’s spouse cannot prevent them from pursuing a divorce.

What should you do if your spouse does not want a divorce?

Even though someone’s spouse cannot prevent them from seeking a divorce, moving forward with one in this situation can be complicated. And taking a divorce to court can be time-consuming and extremely stressful for one’s family.

So, here are some steps individuals can take if their spouse disagrees with the decision to divorce:

  • Allow them time to process: When spouses disagree to divorce right away, it is usually because they are scared or caught off-guard. Give them time to think about it.
  • Talk about it: It is critical for spouses to have an honest and nonjudgmental conversation about their marriage–and the divorce–if one spouse does not agree to divorce. This conversation will generally have two steps. Individuals seeking a divorce must:
    1. Genuinely listen to the reasons their spouse does not want a divorce; and
    2. Clearly explain the reasons they do want a divorce.
  • Propose a trial separation: Living separately can give both spouses time to think about their perspectives, as well as experience what a separation or divorce would be like.

Taking these steps can help spouses who disagree about divorce move forward, and perhaps even keep their divorce out of court.