Divorce: Can You Change Your Mind?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, January 4, 2016.

To divorce in Florida, the marriage must be irretrievably broken. If you change your mind and want to stay married, can you get un-divorced? New Hampshire just decided that question.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court in December upheld a lower court ruling refusing to vacate a couple’s 2014 divorce after 24 years of marriage.

Terrie Harmon and her ex-husband, Thomas McCarron, argued their divorce was erroneous because they mended fences and are a couple again.

But the New Hampshire justices, in a unanimous ruling issued a few weeks ago, said the law specifically allows them to grant divorces – not undo them.

Courts in some states – including Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arkansas, Maryland and Kentucky – will vacate divorces within a certain time frame or under certain circumstances, at the parties’ request.

What can you do if you discover your marriage is not irretrievably broken after you filed for divorce? If you do decide not to divorce, your options are limited to where in the divorce process your case is.

Pending Cases

A pending case is an ongoing case in which the final judgment of dissolution of marriage has not been entered. In pending cases, you may be allowed to voluntarily dismiss your case, or possibly abate the divorce proceedings to give your reconciliation a chance.

Post-Judgment Cases

If the final judgment has been entered, as in the New Hampshire case, there are limited ways final judgments can be set aside.

The rules allow for final judgments to be set aside by proving clerical mistakes, other mistakes, newly discovered evidence, and fraud. However, there is no authority for setting aside a final judgment because you’ve reconciled.

As people in the New Hampshire case observed:

“I think it was partly sentimental and partly that they had some business interests that a divorce and remarry would be more complicated than undoing the divorce.”

I’ve written about divorce strategy to consider before. If you want to reconcile after the divorce final judgment has been entered, you should be very wary of what you could possibly lose by reconciling. For example, re-marriage may be grounds for terminating alimony. You must consult legal and tax experts.

There are other planning issues. Retirement, taxes and social security are often times impacted by your marital status. As one of the attorneys in the New Hampshire case put it:

“People just have to be cautious in making sure divorce is what they really want.”

The New Hampshire story is available on WMUR here.