What Do You Tell the Court if You & Your Spouse Don't Want a Divorce Anymore?
By Beverly Bird
When you take legal steps to end your marriage, you invite the court into your personal life. However, all states recognize no-fault divorce so you don't have to air your dirty laundry if you file your petition or complaint on no-fault grounds. The same applies to stopping your divorce proceedings if you change your mind about breaking up. You do not have to go into intimate detail when you ask the court to either postpone or dismiss your case.
The legislative codes in many states have built-in provisions to deal with the possibility of reconciliation mid-divorce. These provisions allow you to stall your proceedings for a while so you and your spouse can decide whether you want to terminate the litigation or move forward with it. For example, in Tennessee, you can file a request with the court for an order of reconciliation. Such an order “preserves” your divorce complaint and everything contained in it so you don’t have to refile if you change your mind. In Arizona, you can ask the court to order counseling and this puts your divorce on hold for four months. In Illinois, a judge will give you about six months to decide if you want to stay together or break up. When making such a request, all you have to tell the court is that you would like some time to attempt a reconciliation.
Stopping the Proceedings
If you’re very sure you want to stop your divorce and don’t think you need a period of time to think about it, all states allow you to dismiss your petition or complaint without going into a great deal of explanation. It’s sufficient to say you are voluntarily withdrawing your pleadings. In most jurisdictions, you must file a motion for dismissal or withdrawal. The court will review it and grant your request. If your spouse has filed an answer to your complaint with the court, you may have to file such a motion jointly, because he’s become an active part of the litigation.
After a Decree
If a judge has already signed and issued your divorce decree, you don’t have to tell the court anything. It’s too late to stop your divorce. The court doesn’t have the power to wave a legal magic wand and “undo” it. If you want to stay together, you can remarry. Speak with an attorney to learn the laws in your state because some jurisdictions impose a waiting period after a decree before you can remarry, even if you're marrying your ex-spouse.
In some divorce cases, the responding spouse may file a counter-petition or counterclaim in response to a divorce complaint. Counter-pleadings carry more weight with the court than mere answers to complaints. They act as a lawsuit in and of themselves. Therefore, if your spouse filed a counter-pleading in response to your complaint, withdrawing or dismissing your complaint will not end the proceedings. They’ll still go forward based on your spouse’s counterclaim. Your spouse would have to take deliberate steps to dismiss his counterclaim as well. If you retained an attorney, you should probably notify him first if you want to stop your proceedings. Otherwise, he’ll continue doing work on your case and billing you for it.
- LegalMatch: Can I Stop My Divorce Proceeding Once It Has Been Started?
- Robin Roshkind: What if You Want to Reconcile While Divorrcing?
- Gitlin Busche & Stetler: Questions and Answers – Reconciliation
- Law Offices of Scott Justice: What If I Change My Mind About Divorce?
- Cantor Law Group: Divorce With Children (Child Custody)
- The Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide: Weekly Divorce Tip – Dismissing Your Divorce Case
- Vermont Judiciary: Answering the Divorce Complaint and Preparing Your Own Complaint (PDF)
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.