Can you change your mind about a divorce?

Choosing to get a divorce is an incredibly difficult decision, particularly if you have children, and it is fraught with challenges and pain on both sides. Either one or both parties have likely spent weeks, months or years weighing up the decision before even applying. For some people, the decision to divorce can ultimately be liberating; for others, it can inspire a change of heart. It’s common for partners to separate during the proceedings, giving each other space to nurse their wounds and calm down. During this time of quiet reflection and mediated discussion, some couples decide to stop the process and work towards reconciliation instead. How, and whether this is achieved, depends on where they are in the divorce process and if they’re open to exploring alternative options. To begin, we’ll explore the three stages of divorce to help you gain a better understanding.

The three stages of divorce

Divorce Application

In the past, one spouse or civil partner, known as the petitioner, would file the Divorce Petition through a solicitor, online or by post; once the courts received it, they would then serve it to the other person, known as the respondent. In 2020, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act allowed changed the process to enable couples to make joint applications for divorce, splitting the costs 50/50 between both parties. It also changed some of the wording used, for instance the Divorce Petition became the Divorce Application, The Decree Nisi became the Conditional Order and the Decree Absolute became the Final Order. The point of the Divorce Application is to explain to the court the reasons behind the breakdown of your marriage.

Stopping your divorce at the Application stage is relatively straightforward. If the Application hasn’t been served to your spouse, you can make a written request to withdraw it without the respondent’s knowledge. However, once the respondent has been served, or if you’ve made a joint no-fault petition, you and your partner need to make a joint application to the court to withdraw it.

Conditional Order

This stage is provisional; here, the judge will decide if you have met all the requirements and completed the correct paperwork for the divorce to go ahead. You can only apply for the Conditional Order once the respondent has acknowledged the Application by filing an Acknowledgement of Service or when the judge has granted a ‘Deemed to have been served notice’ to the petitioner. Deemed service is when the respondent has not formally acknowledged the Application, and a court order has judged the petition served without needing a response based on proof from the petitioner. If you change your mind and want to end divorce proceedings, you can formally apply to the court with your partner to cancel your application and stay married during this stage.

Final Order

As the name suggests, a Final Order is final, and your marriage is dissolved under the law once it is granted by the judge. Consequently, the only way to stay married is to remarry. Before you reach this point, you will have received specialist support from your solicitor to help you agree on your divorce’s financial and practical terms. Right up until you file the Final Order, you can apply to the court to end the divorce process or explore alternative options.

What are the options?

If you have doubts before or during divorce proceedings, particularly regarding the finality of divorce, other solutions are available to you and your spouse or partner. These are preventative opportunities to resolve issues under the guidance of a solicitor without committing to divorce.

Trial reconciliation

There will undoubtedly be a complex mix of love and hurt on both sides, which can impact your willingness to leave or recommit fully to your relationship. Maybe you’re worried their changes in behaviour are temporary, or you’re concerned that too much has happened already for there to be a complete resolution and total forgiveness. Regardless, a trial reconciliation is an opportunity to explore your relationship without committing to your final decision or withdrawing the petition. It allows you to set boundaries, with a chance to review and a degree of protection for your assets. A trial reconciliation agreement can be drawn up with your solicitor to agree on who is responsible for various expenses, maintenance and financial assets should you wish to continue with divorce proceedings later on.

Formal separation

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this can be especially true of marriages and civil partnerships. Giving yourself and your partner time and space to reflect can help you remember what you loved about each other in the first place and rekindle your romance. Although many people see it as the first step towards divorce, it can actually be the first step towards reconciliation if both partners are open to discussion and devoted to the process.

Often, a Formal Separation agreement is created when you have decided not to live together for an agreed or unspecified period. With the support of a solicitor, you can skip the finality of the divorce whilst a formal arrangement still protects you. A Formal Separation agreement can separate finances and assets and deal with any practical issues, such as maintenance payments and child custody. If you’ve reached a reconciliation, you can consent to end the agreement at any time.

Alternatively, some couples prefer to continue to live together by drawing up a post-nuptial agreement with their solicitors. There may be children or childcare concerns, or reconciliation is easier to achieve in your own space. Regardless, a postnuptial agreement allows you to live together whilst a settlement protects your assets and finances, with the option to end it at any time, much like a Formal Separation.

The intention of these options is two-fold; it is an opportunity to explore your freedom without the anxiety of securing a divorce.

Mediation/Couples Counselling

Falling in love again can bring back the same dizzying emotions you felt at the start of your relationship, and it can be tempting to jump straight back in feet first without acknowledging the problems that led you to this point. However, without recognising and resolving the pain, issues and hurt, you are doomed to repeat them.

Avoiding returning to the point of divorce in the future requires hard work, which is why many couples find mediation or couples counselling helpful. Getting a second, impartial opinion can help you to achieve forgiveness, facilitate discussions and understand the other person’s point of view. It can help you put strategies in place, develop coping mechanisms, and gain a healthier relationship in a non-judgemental space. Think of it as an investment in your marriage, a chance to resolve complex recurring issues and move forward together.

When is the last change to stop a divorce?

You can change your mind any time before the Final Order by withdrawing or applying to cancel your Divorce Application. However, once a judge has granted their final decision, your marriage or civil partnership is officially dissolved, and it is not reversible without remarrying your partner or spouse.

Contact Waldrons

At Waldrons, our lawyers prioritise client care above all else, and our Family Law solicitors are no exception. They are always on hand to listen, guide and provide options to help you find reconciliation or resolution for your marriage or civil partnership. Our expert team of lawyers are dedicated, clear on costs and honest, tailoring your support and advice to meet your needs and circumstances.

Filing for Divorce is fraught with stress and worry; you might need help knowing where to start, whom to speak to, what the process entails, or if any other options are available. We know that one of the primary concerns of beginning the process is money, how much and how to pay. At Waldron’s solicitors, we offer fixed fees and payment plans that can be spread over six months, allowing you some peace of mind at a difficult time. We’re here to assist you and ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. Contact us now to find out more and achieve the best possible outcome for your divorce.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Alka Wood who is a Solicitor