Whether or not you can rescind or amend your divorce proceedings can depend on a variety of factors like what stage you are at in the process and what you have signed thus far. When you decided to file for divorce, you initially signed a Complaint for Divorce with the court. Once you sign the Complaint, there is a mandatory thirty day “cooling off” period under Alabama law. If you decide to rescind your divorce during that thirty day window, it should be relatively easy to do as that is what the cooling off period is designed for – to make sure both parties are certain divorce is what they want. You would need to file a Request for Dismissal with the court. However, if your spouse filed a counterclaim against you then it might still go forward or they would need to file a Request for Dismissal as well.
When you file for an uncontested divorce, you also must sign a Settlement Agreement. This shows the court you agree on all the terms of the divorce and who will get what after your divorce is finalized. If you already signed the Settlement Agreement and no longer want to agree to those terms, you should consult with your attorney. Rescinding the Settlement Agreement is harder than rescinding the Complaint for Divorce and you will likely need the help of an attorney to accomplish it. If you are the Plaintiff it can be easier to dismiss the whole action, since you are the one that began it by filing a Complaint. If you are the Defendant, then you can file motion to rescind agreement, but the claim was began by Plaintiff so that is who would need to dismiss it in most cases. If both parties agree it can be done fairly easily.
Your family law attorney would need to file a motion to rescind the Settlement Agreement immediately and give your reasoning for why the agreement should be rescinded if you are the If you want to change the terms of the Settlement Agreement, especially if your spouse does not, the divorce is no longer uncontested. This will reclassify the divorce as contested and cause the divorce process to go much more slowly.
It becomes much harder to amend or withdraw divorce petitions after the judge has signed the final divorce decree. If you change your mind after the decree is signed, you have limited options. Divorce decrees cannot be appealed like most cases decided by a judge. Instead, you would have to convince the judge to reopen the case. Changing your mind is unlikely to be a compelling enough reason for the judge to do that. Generally, a judge will only reopen a case if one or both party’s circumstances have significantly changed or if fraud was involved in the divorce negotiations. Things like lying about income, concealing assets, or demonstrating you were coerced into signing or didn’t understand the Settlement Agreement are examples of why a judge may reopen a case. Other than this, once the decree is ordered by the judge then the terms of the divorce may only be altered by mutual consent of the parties if you cannot convince a judge to do it unilaterally.
Usually, unless the final decree has been signed by the judge, the parties can amend or withdraw their divorce petitions fairly easily in an uncontested divorce. How difficult that may be depends on how far into the process you are. Once the divorce decree is signed, it becomes much more difficult to alter the terms of the divorce and very difficult to rescind the divorce. When the judge signs the decree, you are legally divorced. If your goal is to rescind the decree, sometimes it may be easier to just re-marry.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!