Reversing the Decision:
How to Halt a Divorce After Filing the Papers

See also: Conflict Resolution

A divorce is a life-altering event that impacts not only the couple involved but also their children, family, and friends. Sometimes, after filing for divorce, a couple may have a change of heart and decide they want to give their marriage another chance. Reversing the decision to divorce is not as simple as tearing up divorce papers, and the process can be complex.

If you are considering reversing a divorce process after filing the papers, it is important to understand what steps must be taken to halt and reverse the proceedings successfully.

This article explains how to stop a divorce once the paperwork has been filed and what legal considerations should occur before making this decision.

Assessing Your Situation and Reasons for Reversing the Decision

There are various reasons why couples may decide to halt a divorce after filing the papers. Some common reasons include:

  • The desire to give the relationship another chance
  • The realization that the issues leading to the divorce can be resolved through counseling or therapy
  • A change in financial circumstances
  • A belief that staying together is in the best interest of their children

Before moving forward with reversing the decision to divorce, assess the sincerity and viability of reconciliation. It is best to consider whether the reasons for halting the divorce are genuine and if the changes that need to be made in your relationship are achievable. Ask yourself if you and your ex-spouse are committed to working through the issues that led to the initial decision to divorce and if the necessary steps have been taken to address these problems.

Open and honest communication with your spouse is essential in determining whether halting the divorce is right for both of you. Discuss the reasons behind the decision to file for divorce and address any unresolved issues that may still exist. Then establish a plan for addressing these issues and determine whether both parties agree to work toward reconciliation. If both of you are committed to working together to resolve your differences, it may be possible to halt the divorce process and give your marriage another chance.

Legal Requirements and Timeframes

The divorce process involves several stages, starting with filing the divorce petition and concluding with issuing the divorce decree. In some cases, a couple may reach a divorce settlement, but the process isn't complete until a judge signs the settlement. Sometimes, a judge may refuse the settlement if they believe it is unfair or does not adequately protect the interests of both parties, especially any children involved.

The timeframe for a divorce case varies depending on the country and state as well as the case's specific circumstances. In some countries and US states, there may be a mandatory waiting period between filing divorce papers and the final decision by a judge. This waiting period could range from a few weeks to several months. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the divorce process and timeframes in your jurisdiction to understand your window of opportunity for stopping a divorce.

If you decide to halt your divorce, act promptly. Once a judge signs the divorce decree, the divorce becomes final, and reversing the decision may not be possible after the judge signs it. To increase the chances of successfully stopping the divorce process, you should communicate your intentions to your spouse and attorney as soon as possible. If both parties agree to halt the divorce, the process can be stopped more quickly and smoothly.

Local laws play a significant role in determining the requirements and timeframes for halting a divorce. Each US state has its own rules and procedures for stopping a divorce after filing the papers. In some states, a simple agreement between the parties may be sufficient to request a voluntary dismissal of the divorce case. In other states, you may need to file specific legal documents or attend a hearing before a judge. To determine the best course of action for halting your divorce in your state, it is recommended that you contact a local attorney and discuss your situation.

Withdrawing or Dismissing the Divorce Petition

If you and your spouse agree to halt the divorce process, the first step is to withdraw the divorce petition. The person who initially filed a petition for divorce, known as the petitioner, must submit a request to the court to withdraw the divorce papers. This request is typically made in the form of a written document called a "Motion to Dismiss" or "Notice of Voluntary Dismissal," depending on the state. The document must be filed with the same court where the divorce petition was initially filed.

The petitioner is responsible for filing the motion or notices to dismiss the divorce case. However, the respondent, or the spouse who did not file the divorce petition, plays a role in this process. In most cases, the respondent must consent to the dismissal of the case. This consent is usually provided in writing, either by signing the motion or notice or by submitting a separate document called a "Stipulation of Dismissal." Once the necessary documents have been filed and both parties agree to dismiss the case, the court will review the request.

Possible Consequences and Fees

When a divorce petition is dismissed, the judge's decision is withdrawn, and the parties remain legally married. While there may be some relief in halting the divorce process, you should understand the possible consequences and fees associated with this decision. Depending on the state and the specific circumstances of your case, you may lose the filing fees that were paid when the divorce petition was initially filed. In some cases, you may also be required to pay additional fees associated with the dismissal process.

Additionally, if you and your spouse decide to proceed with the divorce at a later date, you will need to start the process from the beginning, including filing a new divorce petition and paying the associated filing fees. Consider the financial and emotional implications of dismissing a divorce case before moving forward with this decision.

Temporary Stopping Measures: Stipulations and Postponements

If you and your spouse are unsure about moving forward with the divorce but are not yet ready to withdraw the divorce petition, consider requesting a temporary halt to the divorce process. This can be done through a stipulation or a postponement, depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

A stipulation is a written agreement between the parties that outlines temporary terms and conditions while the divorce process is on hold. This agreement must be submitted to the court for approval and once approved, it will be legally binding. Stipulations can address issues such as child custody, visitation, support, and the division of assets and debts.

A postponement is a formal request made to the court to delay the divorce proceedings for a specified period. The reasons for requesting a postponement can vary. Still, it typically requires a demonstration of good cause, such as the need for additional time to attempt reconciliation, seek counseling, or resolve other related issues.

Legal Implications and Time Limits for Temporary Stopping Measures

While temporary stopping measures can provide you and your spouse with additional time to evaluate your decision to divorce, there are legal implications and time limits associated with these measures. Once the judge approves, stipulations can be enforced just like any other court order, meaning that any violation of the terms can result in legal consequences.

Moreover, postponements typically come with a specific time frame, often 30 to 180 days, depending on the state and the circumstances surrounding the request. A postponement is not an indefinite hold on the divorce process. Once the specified time period has elapsed, the divorce proceedings will resume unless the parties have reached an agreement to dismiss the case or request an additional postponement.

Reconciliation During the Divorce Process

It is possible for couples to work through their issues and ultimately decide to remain together. One of the most effective ways to facilitate reconciliation is through counseling and therapy options. Marriage counseling, individual therapy, and family therapy can all provide valuable guidance and support as you and your spouse work to rebuild your relationship. Unbundled Blog Articles can also offer additional insights and resources for couples seeking reconciliation.

Marriage counseling typically involves both partners attending sessions together to address their communication, conflict resolution, and emotional needs. Individual therapy can be beneficial for each partner to work through personal issues that may be impacting the relationship. Family therapy may also be a viable option, especially when children are involved, as it can help address the effects of the divorce process on the entire family unit.

A well-thought-out plan for reconciliation is essential in guiding the process and ensuring that both you and your spouse are committed to making the necessary changes for a successful outcome. This plan should include clear goals, a timeline, and an outline of the steps each partner will take to address the issues that led to the initial decision to divorce.

The Role of Attorneys and Mediators in the Reconciliation Process

Having an objective, third-party professional involved in the reconciliation process can be beneficial for both sides. In cases where a stipulation or postponement has been granted, a family law attorney can assist you in drafting any necessary documents to withdraw the divorce petition or request a dismissal. If you are working with a mediator during the divorce process, they can help facilitate open communication and guide you and your spouse in negotiating the terms of your reconciliation.

Legal Separation as an Alternative to Divorce

If the judge refuses to stop the divorce, couples may be able to reach an agreement on legal separation as an alternative. It typically involves a formal agreement or court order outlining each spouse's legal rights and responsibilities regarding financial and parenting issues. Once the judge approves the legal separations agreement and the final papers are submitted, the couple will be considered legally separated. In rare cases, a judge may refuse to grant a legal separation if they believe it is not in the best interest of the parties involved.

Pros and Cons of Legal Separation Versus Divorce

There are several pros and cons to consider when weighing the option of legal separation versus divorce. Some of the advantages of legal separation include:

  • Retaining marital status for religious or personal reasons
  • Maintaining eligibility for certain benefits, such as health insurance or social security benefits
  • Allowing time for reconciliation or personal growth before making a final decision on divorce
  • Potentially less emotionally taxing than a divorce

Some disadvantages of legal separation include:

  • Continued legal and financial ties to your spouse, which could complicate matters if one party accumulates debt or incurs other financial obligations
  • The need to file for divorce later if reconciliation is unsuccessful, which may require additional legal fees and court involvement
  • In some cases, a longer waiting period before being eligible to remarry

If you have already filed for divorce and are considering converting your case to a legal separation, consult with your attorney to discuss your options and the specific requirements in your jurisdiction. In some cases, you may need to withdraw your divorce petition and file a new petition for legal separation. In others, you may request a modification of your existing divorce case to reflect your decision to pursue legal separation instead.

During the process, address any existing agreements or court orders, such as temporary custody arrangements or support orders. You and your spouse will need to renegotiate the terms of your separation, which may involve the assistance of attorneys or mediators. It is also important to be aware that if you later decide to proceed with a divorce, you may need to initiate a new divorce case or convert your legal separation back to divorce, depending on your state's laws.


The decision to halt a divorce is deeply personal and must be made with your spouse's best interests and your own at heart. If you choose to move forward with reconciliation, be prepared to work on rebuilding trust, improving communication, and maintaining a healthy and lasting relationship. Consider consulting with a divorce lawyer to help guide you through the process of halting a divorce and addressing any potential consequences, fees, or complications that may arise.

About the Author

Emeline Simons is a family lawyer based in the US.