Let's Stay Together

October 27, 2011

As San Diego divorce attorneys, we know that a relationship is not over until it is over. A recent article in USA Today titled, Some Couples Pull Back From the Edge of Divorce, focused on couples who called off their divorce proceedings to get back together. One couple, just weeks away form their divorce being finalized, attended a last ditch marriage weekend seminar which they say saved their marriage. Another couple, after already spending $20,000 in attorney fees, took classes to bolster communication and conflict resolution which lead to them calling off their divorce. A third couple that worked at the same place were forced to share rides to work for a week when one of their cars broke down. They ended up having so much fun together that they called off their divorce even though both had started new relationships.

While these reconciliation stories are unusual, some couples in the middle of a divorce do want to make one final attempt to save the marriage. When this occurs, the parties usually want time away from the court proceedings to attempt their reconciliation. In San Diego County, there are two main options which allow time to attempt reconciliation.

The first and usually the best option is to file a Stipulation of Attempted Reconciliation. The San Diego County Rules of Court allow parties to file a stipulation indicating that they are attempting reconciliation. This will effectively put a hold on their case for approximately 12 months. If either a Dismissal of the Petition for Dissolution or a Judgment is not filed within 12 months of the filing of the Petition for Dissolution, then the court will set a Status Conference to find out what is going on. At that point he court can dismiss the case, continue to keep the case on hold, or encourage the parties to move the case forward. Filing a Stipulation of Attempted Reconciliation is a good option when both parties want to attempt reconciliation, but do not want to have to re-file paperwork if the reconciliation fails. If the reconciliation does not work, then the case will pick up right where it left off. Be sure to consult with your attorney regarding the benefits and risks of exercising this option.

The second is to end the divorce proceedings. This can be done by filing a Request for Dismissal, which will dismiss the case in its entirety and if anything is on calendar, it will be taken off the court's calendar. It is often not a good idea to file a Request for Dismissal unless the parties have spent some time working on reconciliation and both parties are confident that the reconciliation will last. Otherwise, the case will need to be started all over again. One time a client called after an unexpected "romantic" weekend with the ex and asked to dismiss the case because they reconciled over the weekend. After advising the client to wait a few weeks to see if the reconciliation will work out, it took the parties about two weeks to realize that they were not going to be able to sucessfully reconcile. By not filing a Request for Dismissal right away, the client's custody and support motion remained on calendar and proceeded a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that the client disappears, meaning he or she stops communicating with their attorney and/or the court, thinking if they ignore the pending divorce, nothing will happen in it. That is not thecase. Disappearing does not stop or halt the divorce proceedings. Clients who choose to disappear may lose legal rights (especially regarding time sensative discovery deadlines) or suffer other adverse consequences should the reconciliation fail.

If you are in the middle of a divorce and wish to make a final attempt at reconciliation, you need to discuss it with your San Diego Divorce Attorney, who can advise you on the best way to protect your legal interests, whether the reconciliation succeeds or not.

San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy J. Bickford is the only certified family law specialist in San Diego who is a CPA and also holds an MBA. Don't settle for less when determining your rights during a divorce or child custody case. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.