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What Happens if the Parties Have a Change of Heart?

In many ways, a divorce can seem, and typically is, final.  It requires the filing of a judgment, a judge’s signature, and a marriage that is no longer the same.  But what happens when a party files for divorce and then changes his or her mind?  Or, what happens when a couple finalizes their divorce and then reconciles?  This blog will explore the consequences of these non-traditional relationships.Cartoon red heart with patch on the crack. Cute and friendly character with eyes and smile

First, let’s consider what happens when a party files for divorce but then changes his or her mind and wishes to withdraw the petition for dissolution.  In California, there is a 6-month statutory waiting period before any divorce can be finalized- and this scenario is exactly why.  Sometimes a couple is going through a rough patch and a spouse will file for divorce prematurely.  After discussing and working on their relationship the couple no longer wants to go through with their divorce.  So, what happens?

Luckily, dismissing a petition for dissolution is not difficult in most cases.  If the other spouse has not yet been served with the divorce petition, or you have served the petition but no response has been filed, the party can simply dismiss the case by filing the form CIV-110, “Request for Dismissal” with the court.  However, if your spouse has already been served with the petition and filed a response with the court, then your spouse must also sign the CIV-110 form in order to dismiss the case. This is to ensure that both parties are on the same page.  If the spouse that filed a response wishes to go forward with the divorce, then the proceeding will continue.  However, at any point before the judgment is entered the parties can decide to jointly file the CIV-110 form if, down the line, the parties reconcile.

Another situation that can happen is the parties go through and finalize their divorce and then wish to reconcile.  Famous couples who have divorced and remarried the same person include Elon Musk and Larry King.  In order to protect the parties if this situation arises, the following language is often included in divorce judgements:

“Any reconciliation between the parties shall not cancel, terminate, or modify

the force or effect of any provision of this [judgment] awarding, confirming,

or assigning assets or obligations to either party, unless the parties agree to

the contrary in writing.”

The above language means that unless the couple agrees in writing, the judgment remain intact and all provisions awarding or confirming assets and/or debts to a party are enforceable.  This protects the parties in case the reconciliation does not go as planned, or if the parties wish to ultimately remain divorced.

However, if the parties do wish to re-marry each other then that is okay too!  There is nothing stopping the couple from a second marriage.  It is important to keep in mind that once the couple remarries, their assets and debts (even those awarded to them in their prior divorce) become subject to California’s community property laws.  Hopefully the second time is the charm because no couple wants to go through a divorce twice, especially with the same person!

Deciding whether to move forward with your divorce is a deeply personal decision.  There are no “right” or “wrong” answers.  Before deciding what road to take it is always important to discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney.

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