Should a spouse refuse to sign divorce papers, it is still possible to proceed with the divorce by filing legal paperwork as a single petitioner. According to LegalZoom, a spouse's signature is only necessary if both parties are agreeing to the divorce petition by filing jointly. Alternatively, one spouse can obtain a legal complaint for divorce (not the joint version), fill it out and file it.
As long as the divorce petition is applicable to the state in which the petitioner lives, divorce proceedings may be initiated without the consent of the spouse. LegalZoom points out that selecting a no-fault or irreconcilable differences option is a legal declaration that the marriage is broken beyond repair. Even if the spouse refuses to participate, such refusal cannot stop the divorce from being granted under these circumstances.
The petition must be filed in the proper courthouse so that a summons can be issued. The petitioner then gets a sheriff, family member, friend or process server to serve the summons. According to LawHelp.org/DC, the server must be at least 18 years of age. The petitioner is not allowed to serve summons papers. Once served, the spouse has a limited amount of time to respond, otherwise a default hearing is the next step.