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Alice wants to get a divorce from Bob. Bob is an upstanding member of society. There is no credible case against Bob for any crimes or impropriety (no abuse, infidelity, etc). Bob does not want Alice to divorce him. Alice and Bob have no prenuptial agreement. Alice has asked Bob to leave their shared house, but he refuses and maintains residence at the property.

What can Bob do to stonewall the process?

What happens if he refuses to sign the divorce papers? If those consequences are highly detrimental, what is his next course of action after delaying as long as possible? And then what are the consequences from that action? (Continuing on until he is out of options)

What is the ultimate outcome? Can Alice unilaterally force a divorce? What are the conditions of such a divorce likely to be? (alimony, the house, other property, etc)

This is a hypothetical and I am interested in the United States law as a whole, but if necessary I will specify New York State to establish a concrete jurisdiction.

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Prior to 2010, New York was the last state to have only fault based divorce. In 2010, the fault based grounds for divorce were retained, but a no fault ground for divorce was added and has become very popular.

In a no fault divorce:

All that has to be proved and stated in your divorce papers is that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken" for at least six months. One spouse must state this under oath.

With respect to this point:

Alice has asked Bob to leave their shared house, but he refuses and maintains residence at the property.

The judge will almost certainly at the very outset (probably within a month or two, quite possibly in a matter of days) order one spouse out of the house in temporary orders if either spouse objects to continued cohabitation.

Temporary orders at the outset of a divorce establishing a provisional status quo with separated parties is routine. In a divorce, title to the residence is pretty much irrelevant, and so are the wishes of the adults unless they agree.

There is no presumption in favor of either party, i.e. neither for or against Bob, and neither for nor against Alice, in a temporary orders hearing, based upon who filed for divorce or who lived there at the time of temporary orders. There is, however, a very strong imperative to not have people who are getting divorced cohabiting when one or both of the parties doesn't want to cohabit. Cohabitation would only in the most extraordinary case be imposed on a party who opposed it during divorce proceedings.

The judge looks at the facts and circumstances and decides for one or the other without considering at all who filed for divorce, and without seriously considering what either of them want (if they don't agree). Once a divorce has been commenced, everything is up for grabs without regard to who filed for divorce.

Usually, temporary use of the residence if awarded to the primary caretaker of the children if there is one, so that the children's lives can be disrupted as little as possible. But, a judge in a temporary orders hearing has immense discretion.

For example, Rudy Giuliani wife was granted occupancy of his official residence as Mayor of New York City during one of his three divorces: "Giuliani moved out of Gracie Mansion by August 2001 and into an apartment with a couple he was friends with."

What can Bob do to stonewall the process?

Not all that much other than insisting on disputing all matters to be resolved in the divorce and taking them to trial. Bob can't prevent the divorce from happening and can't do all that much to slow down the process any more than insisting on taking everything to trial does.

Generally speaking, efforts to unjustified efforts to delay the process and the inevitable will be penalized and it is unethical for Bob's lawyer to use such tactics.

If it is apparent to the judge that Bob is trying to stonewall, this will be perceived as defiance of the court's authority in a case where the judge has massive discretion to make a determination on the merits. This is unwise, although there is no specific consequence that could necessarily be assigned to this kind of perception.

What happens if he refuses to sign the divorce papers?

A process server delivers the papers to him, and then a judge decides how to resolve the disputed issues related to custody, property, child support, alimony, and attorney fees. Bob's consent is not required for anything. Bob could speed things up by agreeing to various things, but only so much.

If those consequences are highly detrimental, what is his next course of action after delaying as long as possible? And then what are the consequences from that action? (Continuing on until he is out of options)

Fighting for the sake of fighting rarely produces an optimal outcome. Delaying as long as possible is almost never the best strategy. If Bob litigates needlessly, he is likely to see most of both side's attorney fees allocated to him and to get a custody arrangement that is rigid in a way that will be detrimental to him in the long run.

What is the ultimate outcome? Can Alice unilaterally force a divorce?

Yes.

What are the conditions of such a divorce likely to be? (alimony, the house, other property, etc)

An equitable but not equal division of property, a parenting time and parental responsibility order that a judge finds to be in the best interests of the children, child support based upon child support guidelines with statutorily allowed adjustments if any are present, and alimony based on many factors but mostly duration of the marriage and the relative incomes of the parties.

The specific award could vary significantly even in case where the lawyers present exactly the same facts to two different judges in the same courthouse, without either judge committing reversible error.

This is a hypothetical and I am interested in the United States law as a whole, but if necessary I will specify New York State to establish a concrete jurisdiction.

For what it is worth, New York is somewhat atypical. But the broad outlines of no fault divorces are reasonably similar.

One factor that makes New York State divorces different from some no fault states is that marital fault can be considered in some cases in the substantive decision on the merits. But this is no applicable in the case of this question where, by assumption, there is no marital fault present.

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    @MichaelHall Not really. Temporary orders at the outset of a divorce establishing a provisional status quo with separated parties is routine. In a divorce, title to the residence is pretty much irrelevant, and so are the wishes of the adults unless they agree. Usually, temporary use of the residence if awarded to the primary caretaker of the children if there is one, so that the children's lives can be disrupted as little as possible. Judges in a temporary orders hearing have immense discretion.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 16, 2023 at 20:07
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    @MichaelHall In the absence of children, a person initiating a voluntary action is at no disadvantage vis-a-vis an unwilling partner regarding residence. The judge looks at the facts and circumstances and decides for one or the other without considering at all who filed for divorce, and without seriously considering what either of them want (if they don't agree). Once a divorce has been commenced, everything is up for grabs without regard to who filed for divorce.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 16, 2023 at 20:15
  • Alice can leave any time she wants, so can Bob. What counts is who petitions to toss out the other party. Bob's position (that the marriage is not broken) is what puts him at a disadvantage.
    – user6726
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:42
  • @user6726, not using the word "broken", how would a preference to remain married (or not) cause any advantage or disadvantage when it comes to a ruling on housing? It seems that the person pressing to maintain status quo would have the upper hand. (i.e. "You don't want to be married? Fine, you are free to leave any time, but that doesn't give you the right to kick somebody else out in a no fault situation.") Jan 17, 2023 at 0:42
  • The status quo is that Alice and Bob continue to live together and remain married. Bob would be disrupting the status quo in petitioning to throw out his wife.
    – user6726
    Jan 17, 2023 at 1:02

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