Can a Divorce Be Reversed? Is My Divorce Really Final?

No couple marries expecting to get a divorce, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. If you find yourself in this situation, feeling upset is normal.

Divorce is more often than not a lengthy, stressful, and painful process, especially when children and property are involved.

It can also be hard to accept, especially if you were not the spouse who initiated the proceedings. 

If you're not quite ready to throw in the towel, you may be wondering if you can reverse a divorce.

The following guide will explore the the answer to that question and other common divorce inquiries.

What Is a Final Divorce Decree?

You may hear a divorce decree called a divorce judgment or a judgment for dissolution of marriage (what it's called varies from state to state).

But both names refer to the same thing: the final document a court issues in a divorce. Once you have this document, you have completed the last step in the divorce process.

The divorce decree contains all the terms of your divorce, which means it may be lengthy. Some common topics covered in divorce decrees include: 

  • Alimony
  • Division of property
  • Division of debt
  • Custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support (if applicable) 

If you went to trial, the decree would also include any judge's decisions. Both parties must adhere to those decisions, as the divorce decree is legally binding.

But if you settled out of trial, the decree includes settlement terms. You'll still have to abide by them, but they are terms you and your ex-spouse have agreed to on your own. 

Courts only issue divorce decrees at the end of a divorce case, and legally speaking, the divorce is not final until the decree is signed. It shouldn't take too long after the judge signs it for you to receive a copy. Usually, the decree will go to your lawyer first, who then forwards it to you. 

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

Many people mistakenly use “divorce decree” and “divorce certificate interchangeably. However, these terms refer to two different things, and it's essential to understand the difference.

A divorce decree comes from a court, whereas a divorce certificate does not. Instead, a state's Bureau of Vital Statistics – the same place that issues birth certificates – usually issue most divorce certificates.

A divorce certificate is a short document showing vital information about your divorce. It includes: 

  • The full names of the former spouses
  • Place of divorce
  • Divorce date

Divorce certificates have limited uses, but you may need one to od the following:

  • Change your name
  • Get married
  • Get a passport
  • Get a travel visa 

Can a Finalized Divorce Ever Be Reversed by the Court?

What if you and your spouse have worked out your differences and had a change of heart? If so, congratulations! But is it possible to reverse a finalized divorce?

The answer is that it depends on how long it has been since the divorce settlement was signed and the judge signed the divorce decree. 

If less than thirty days have passed, the judge may rescind the decree. In this case, you should speak with your lawyer as soon as possible to let them know you and your spouse have changed your minds. 

However, if more than thirty days have gone by, the court cannot reverse it. It may seem unfair, but there is a good reason for final divorce decrees being binding: normally, at least one party wants the divorce.

It would be problematic if you could easily undo a divorce.

The good news is that if you and your spouse have reconciled, you can always remarry. There is no law preventing you from doing so, though you'll have to pay any required marriage license fees again.  

Can a Finalized Divorce Ever Be Modified by the Court?

If you wish to change specific aspects of your divorce decree, such as spousal support, visitation, or child support, you may be able to. To do so, you can either request a post-divorce modification or file an appeal arguing that the judge made a mistake.

Post-Judgment Modification

You can begin the process by filing a “Motion to Modify” the divorce decree. Typically, you must file the motion to modify with the same court that issued your divorce judgment. 

It's vital to remember that most states have rules about the modification process. You can't just decide you want to modify a divorce. There must be a substantial change necessitating a revision, and you will have to prove that these grounds exist to alter a judgment.

Arguing that the court's ruling is unfair is not usually grounds to do so.

Here are some examples of valid reasons to modify a finalized divorce:

  • Income has been affected by job loss or promotion
  • One spouse has remarried
  • One spouse has been arrested
  • One spouse is seriously ill or injured
  • One spouse is showing signs of child neglect, drug abuse, or domestic violence

Appealing a Judge's Decision

It's highly unusual for a court to reverse its decision, but if you feel a mistake has occurred in your case, you are entitled to request an appeal of your divorce decree.

Keep in mind that you must make the appeal within a specific time frame and that you'll need to prove that a judge made a mistake when applying the law in your case. Usually, courts will only look at the evidence presented in the original trial, so don't expect to introduce new evidence. 

Is There a ‘Point of No Return' in Divorce Proceedings?

There isn't a fixed date to cancel or terminate divorce proceedings in most cases. As long as no final judgment has been made, most judges will entertain a petition to stop the proceedings. 

My Spouse Filed for Divorce But I Don't Want to

Unfortunately, if your spouse has filed for a divorce that you do not want, there is little you can do legally to stop it. No state will force someone to stay in a marriage just because one party doesn't want it to end. 

Some spouses will avoid the issue by avoiding or refusing to sign divorce papers. However, though these tactics can complicate things, they are unlikely to stop the divorce.

Most states have rules in place that allow people to divorce even when their spouse is uncooperative. If you refuse to sign, the only thing you'll achieve is to draw out an already unpleasant process. 

Instead of going this route, if you genuinely don't want the divorce, it's best to try to come to an understanding with your partner. Show your commitment to your marriage by agreeing to marriage counseling and working hard in your sessions.

As explained in this guide, you can generally halt divorce proceedings until the final divorce decree is signed. 

Read More: How To Stop a Divorce When Your Are Not Ready To End Your Marriage

FAQs

Divorces can be complex and frustrating. It's completely natural to have more questions and doubts, which is why we have the answers to some frequently asked questions below.

  • Can a Divorce Be Canceled?
    Yes, but a divorce can only be canceled by the spouse who has initiated the divorce proceedings. If you have filed and since changed your mind, you must go to the courthouse where you filed and get the necessary paperwork to stop the process. The steps you need to take will depend on which stage the proceedings are in. Typically, you'll need to fill out a "Request for Dismissal" or "Motion for Dismissal" form. The court clerk can help you figure out what form is suitable for you. In some cases, you might need to serve your partner with the dismissal, and they may also have to sign it. Pay attention to the requirements in your jurisdiction.
  • What Makes a Divorce Invalid?
    Though unusual, certain situations might render a divorce invalid. One of those situations could be if you obtain a divorce in a different state to the one you were married in. The state where the marriage took place could invalidate the divorce. It's vital to understand that you and your partner are technically still married if your divorce is declared invalid. This situation could lead to some severe problems down the line. If you have any doubt about the validity of your divorce papers, it's best to consult a lawyer.
  • How Long Can a Divorce Be Put on Hold?
    If you and your partner want to give things one last try before getting divorced, you can put the proceedings on hold. To do so, you must file a Motion to Abate with the court the divorce has been filed in. You will then be granted a hold lasting anywhere from sixty to ninety days. This option offers couples an appropriate amount of time to work on their marriage and seek counseling if necessary. If they decide that the union has no future, after this period, they should file a Motion to Continue the Proceedings. Otherwise, a couple that wants to stay together should file a motion to Voluntary Dismiss the Dissolution.