Deciding to file for divorce or legal separation is a huge decision for any married individual. By the time that person actually gets enough courage to sit down with a divorce attorney and sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Petition for Legal Separation, his or her mind is typically made up. But what happens if somewhere along the way, a miracle happens and the couple reconciles? Is it too late to pull the plug on the divorce and live happily ever after?
It may come as a surprise, but it is not uncommon for couples to decide to forgo the divorce action and give their marriage another shot. Perhaps they felt forced to file for divorce at the time or the issues they had with their spouse have been resolved. Whatever the reason may be, if a couple is going to make a good faith attempt at reconciliation they need to be open to change and willing to examine the mistakes they have made in their relationship in the past. Forgiveness is also a big part of the reconciliation process. It is advised that a couple establish a timeline for their reconciliation, write down their relationship goals, and talk about their issues often. It is vital that neither spouse has an ulterior purpose for the reconciliation.
If a couple decides to reconcile after filing for divorce but before their divorce has been finalized (i.e. a judgment entered by the court), there are a few options on how to proceed. First, if the couple is just beginning the reconciliation process but there is an upcoming hearing on calendar, the parties may seek a continuance to get the hearing pushed out to a later date. However, the court will ensure that the continuance is not sought in bad faith or simply to unnecessarily delay the divorce. If you think that you and your spouse are on the road to a full reconciliation, but you aren't 100% sure, then you might prefer to stipulate (written agreement between both parties) to exempt your case for a certain period of time. This means that the court will essentially put your case on hold and suspend temporary orders that are in effect.
If the parties are sure about their reconciliation and absolutely no longer want to get divorced, they can choose to dismiss their divorce action altogether but without prejudice. This means that they would not be precluded from or penalized for filing another Petition for Divorce at a later date, if the reconciliation falls through for some reason. However, if a spouse decides to file for divorce later on down the road then it is very important to keep in mind that the date of separation will be different. Pushing out the date of separation to a later date can significantly affect division of assets and calculation of support and should be considered carefully before deciding to dismiss a divorce action. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on your best course of action.