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Can I Stop a Divorce if the Paperwork Has Already Been Filed?

By Spodek Law Group | January 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 13, 2023)

Last Updated on: 13th October 2023, 12:32 am

Making the decision to end your marriage is never easy. Even after taking the difficult step of filing for divorce, you may find yourself having second thoughts. So what happens if you change your mind and want to stop the divorce after submitting paperwork to the court?The short answer is – it depends. There are a few factors to consider, including who filed for divorce, what forms have already been submitted, and whether you and your spouse are in agreement about stopping the proceedings. This article will walk through the key things to know if you are exploring whether it’s possible to halt a divorce that is already in progress.

Reasons A Couple Might Want to Stop Divorce Proceedings

Before diving into the legalities, it can be helpful to understand why a couple may have a change of heart after starting the divorce process. Some common reasons include:

  • Coming to a resolution on the issues that led to the divorce filing. For example, if the decision to divorce was prompted by an affair, the couple may have been able to work through it.
  • A desire to keep the family together, especially if minor children are involved. The impact of divorce on kids can make some parents have second thoughts.
  • Financial concerns or complications in dividing assets. The costs and complexities of a divorce may seem daunting after the fact.
  • One spouse had a change of heart and wants to reconcile, prompting the other to reconsider.
  • The realization that divorce may not actually resolve the issues in the marriage. Problems could resurface even after splitting.
  • Improved communication during mediation sessions, leading to increased understanding.
  • Simple second thoughts or regrets after taking a significant legal step.

No matter the reasons, if both spouses agree that they want to halt the divorce proceedings, it is often possible if acted on quickly. However, if one spouse wants to stop the divorce and the other does not, terminating the process becomes much more difficult.

Steps to Stop a Divorce After Filing Paperwork

If you and your spouse are on the same page about stopping the divorce, here are the typical next steps:

Withdraw the Divorce Petition

The spouse who originally filed the paperwork to start the divorce (known as the petitioner) must take formal legal action to withdraw the petition. This is typically done by filing a document called a Motion to Dismiss or Notice of Voluntary Dismissal. The form needs to be submitted to the same court that is handling the divorce case.Specific requirements vary by state, so it’s important to check local laws. Consulting with a divorce attorney can help ensure you complete this step properly.

Notify Your Spouse

In most cases, the spouse who did not file the initial divorce petition (the respondent) must receive formal notice that the case is being dismissed. The petitioner usually must serve the respondent with a copy of the request for dismissal.Some states also require the petitioner to file an additional “proof of service” document with the court showing that the respondent was properly notified.

Attend a Court Hearing (If Required)

Depending on the circumstances and local laws, a hearing may be required before the judge will dismiss the divorce case. This is more likely if the divorce is further along or if the respondent objects to halting the proceedings.If a hearing occurs, both spouses will need to attend and provide testimony about their desire to stop the divorce. The judge will ultimately decide if dismissal is appropriate.

Reconciliation: Giving Your Marriage Another Chance

If you successfully stop the divorce, the next step is to start repairing your relationship and addressing any issues that led to the filing. This takes commitment, compromise, and effort from both individuals.Marriage counseling or therapy is often helpful when reconciling after initiating divorce. Working with a neutral third party provides tools to improve communication, increase understanding, and strengthen your bond.

Key Considerations if Only One Spouse Wants to Stop the Divorce

The process gets more complicated if you change your mind about the divorce but your spouse remains committed to ending the marriage. Some key questions to consider:

  • Who filed the initial paperwork? If you filed for divorce (the petitioner), you may be able to submit a request for dismissal on your own to temporarily halt proceedings. Your spouse would then need to restart the process by filing a new petition down the road. However, if your spouse filed first, you cannot single-handedly stop the process.
  • Has your spouse already responded to the petition? If your spouse has only been served with the initial petition but has not yet formally responded, you may be able to withdraw the petition unilaterally before the case goes further. Once both parties are actively involved in the case, it takes agreement from both spouses to stop the proceedings.
  • How far along is the divorce? The further along the divorce, the less likely it is that a judge will agree to dismiss the case over the objections of one spouse. If you have already reached a settlement or gone to trial, stopping the divorce is very difficult.
  • Are you prepared to contest the case? If your spouse remains set on divorce, you may need to hire your own divorce lawyer and contest the case every step of the way. This can get emotionally and financially draining.
  • Have you tried discussing reconciliation? Before digging into a contentious legal battle, have an open and honest conversation with your spouse. Listen to their reasons for wanting the divorce. See if there is any room for compromise or counseling before resorting to litigation.
  • Are you ready to let go? Even if you aren’t ready for the marriage to end, you cannot force your spouse to remain married. At a certain point, you may need to accept that the relationship is over and focus on getting through the divorce as smoothly as possible.

When Is It Too Late to Stop Divorce Proceedings?

Technically, a divorce is not finalized until a judge signs the final divorce decree. Up until this point, it is possible for the spouses to change their minds and request dismissal – if both parties agree.However, the closer you get to a final decree, the harder it becomes to halt the proceedings. Once the judge formally enters a divorce judgment, reversing course becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.Some other key finality points that make stopping the divorce unlikely include:

  • A divorce settlement agreement has been signed and filed. This formal contract lays out the terms of the divorce. Even if the decree is not final, trying to overturn a signed settlement is an uphill battle.
  • The divorce has gone to trial. If the judge has already heard arguments and evidence from both sides and made rulings, they are very unlikely to undo all their work by dismissing the case.
  • Significant time has passed. After months or years of working through the divorce process, courts are hesitant to just hit reset because one party had a change of heart.
  • Major financial or custody decisions have been made. If accounts have been divided, assets awarded, and child custody arrangements formalized, it creates a complex situation that is tough to unravel.

Options If It’s Too Late to Stop the Divorce

If your divorce case has already reached the point of no return, you cannot simply call it off. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of options if you are having regrets. Some alternatives to explore include:

  • Appealing the divorce judgment. If you believe serious legal errors were made in your case, you may be able to appeal the final judgment and get it overturned. The odds of success are low, but may be worth looking into.
  • Contesting rulings. If you disagree with child custody terms, asset division, or other divorce orders, you can file motions to contest these issues and try to get them modified in your favor.
  • Seeking an annulment. In very limited circumstances where your marriage was unlawful to begin with, you may be able to pursue an annulment instead of a divorce. This essentially treats the marriage as if it never existed legally.
  • Remarrying your ex. If all else fails and you regret the divorce down the road, you can always remarry your spouse and give the relationship another shot! Just make sure to take care of any unfinished business from the first divorce.

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