One spouse, or both spouses, may seek a court order of divorce by filing what is known as a petition for divorce. Grounds for divorce include “fault” grounds (i.e., grounds under which one party alleges that the marriage should be terminated because the other party did something wrong, such as commit abandonment or adultery), as well as “no-fault” grounds. In a so-called “no-fault” divorce proceeding, a court may grant a divorce request without either party having to prove that the other party engaged in wrongdoing. 

Regardless of what type of divorce proceeding is requested, one party (or both) may change their mind during a proceeding and seek to terminate the divorce proceedings and to remain married. Courts will grant a request to end a divorce proceeding under certain circumstances.

Why Might a Party Wish to End a Divorce Proceeding?

One or both parties may wish to end a divorce proceeding. One party or both may seek to reconcile; to avoid the costs of a protracted proceeding; or desire to continue the existing child custody arrangement.

When Must a Party Request That a Divorce Proceeding Be Cancelled?

Generally, there is no fixed date by which a party must request that divorce proceedings be cancelled or terminated. A judge will entertain a request to end the proceedings at any time before final judgment.  

What Do You Need to Do to End a Divorce Proceeding?

A party who seeks to stop a petition of divorce, must generally file a notice of revocation (also known as a notice of withdrawal) with the court and upon the other party. The procedures to follow are dictated by what stage the proceedings are in.

If the proceedings are at the point at which the other spouse has yet to respond to a petition, then a court will generally permit you to file a “voluntary dismissal.” 

If the proceedings are at a point where the spouse has filed a response to the petition, then the party that filed the petition may still request that the proceedings may be terminated. The judge will not automatically grant the request, since a response has been made. 

At this point, the parties must generally agree to enter into and sign a  “stipulation of voluntary dismissal.” If the parties agree to dismissal, then the judge will likely approve the request. If the responding spouse does not agree to the dismissal, then the judge may call for formal argument (called “oral argument”) at which both sides are permitted to explain why the request should or should not be granted. The court will make a decision after thoroughly evaluating the arguments. If the court finds no legitimate reason to deny the request, then the court will approve it.  

If a party attempts to file a notice of withdrawal later in the proceedings, then the court might be less inclined to grant it. A party may file the notice at any point before which the court is ready to enter final judgment. The closer to the point of final judgment that party does so, however, the more scrutiny the court will give to the filing, if the spouse objects to it.

A court might apply additional extra scrutiny out of concern that the party making the filing is doing so simply to obtain a tactical advantage. If the court determines that the filing party did not sincerely intend to terminate the proceedings, but rather, only made the filing as to delay the entire divorce, then the court may deny the request. 

A court may also choose to deny the notice to withdraw out of basic notions of equity, or fairness. The longer a proceeding has gone on, the more time and money the other spouse has spent in the process. A judge is permitted to consider whether it is unfair to permit termination of the proceedings under such circumstances. 

In addition, a judge may deny an attempt to “cancel” divorce proceedings at any time if a party credibly alleges that the party filing the request to stop, is coercing them to terminate. A judge may also deny a request to cancel if the judge, after reviewing the request, concludes that the responding party has credibly accused the party seeking to cancel of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect. 

The judge, by denying the attempt to cancel, keeps the matter within their jurisdiction. The judge therefore retains the ability to issue protective orders or other relief needed to protect the spouse or child. 

Keep in mind that “credibly alleges” means that the accusation has some sort of proof that can be used to back up the claim. It cannot just be a sudden accusation with no merit or reason behind it. While it might seem like a good tactic if you are truly desperate, it will only hurt you in the end. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Stopping a Divorce After it Has Been Filed?

If you need assistance on how a divorce proceeding, once filed, may be stopped, you may wish to hire a divorce lawyer for assistance. A divorce lawyer can explain what options you have with respect to such termination, what difficulties you may encounter, and can represent you in your effort to have a divorce proceeding stopped.