Divorces, like relationships, can be complicated. Couples who may be set on divorce one day might rethink their decision the next. When spouses aren’t sure if they’re ready to move forward, it is possible to put a divorce on hold.
New York courts do not put a deadline on a divorce once the process has begun. If the parties have signed the divorce settlement agreement and/or filed with the court but not yet finalized, you can file a motion asking the court not to rule on the proceedings. Although putting a divorce on hold indefinitely is not recommended, taking a few weeks or months to consider the decision is common and can be helpful.
Pausing a divorce may be as simple as not taking action during negotiations for a set period. At different points in the divorce, discontinuing or withdrawing the case may be necessary to prevent it from moving forward. The best course of action will depend on where you are in the divorce process.
After Initial Papers Have Been Filed and Served
Divorces are initiated when the plaintiff alerts the court that they are seeking a divorce by filing a Summons with Notice or a Summons with Complaint. The Notice must be served on the defendant within 120 days to continue the divorce. The defendant then usually has 20 days to respond.
Couples may take the full 120 days to consider divorce before taking any further steps. If you decide you need more time before moving forward, the easiest way to put a divorce on hold at this early stage is to simply discontinue it.
If the plaintiff has submitted the Notice to the court, but it has not yet been served on the defendant, the plaintiff can withdraw the divorce by filing a Notice of Discontinuance. This ends the divorce entirely, but either party can easily resume it by filing a new Notice.
If the Notice has been served on the defendant and/or the defendant has responded to it, the divorce can still be withdrawn if both parties agree and sign a Notice of Discontinuance.
During Divorce Negotiations
Courts encourage couples to work through divorce negotiations efficiently, and judges can impose court appearances and filings deadlines. Still, the court cannot force you to go through with a divorce. If both spouses agree to put the divorce on hold and they are not wasting the court’s time with useless appearances, divorce negotiations can be paused for as long as the couple wants.
However, pausing a divorce doesn’t necessarily pause your bill. If you continue to call your lawyer, file papers, or attend court appearances, your divorce costs will continue to increase. If the divorce is on hold for long enough, you may have the added cost of redoing paperwork or negotiations once you resume. If a pause is necessary, be mindful of any upcoming deadlines and how much you engage your attorney during the break.
At this point in the divorce process, it is important that both parties are on the same page if they want to put proceedings on hold. If one spouse is dragging their feet while the other is trying to move the process forward, it will lead to resentment, contentious negotiations, and higher costs. Attempting to block the divorce will not prevent it from happening eventually if the other spouse wants it.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse reconcile during a break and decide to end the divorce proceedings, you can file paperwork asking for a voluntary dismissal. You will need to pay a filing fee, but the process is simple, and you do not need to provide the court with any explanation. To resume the divorce, you will need to start the process over again, so make sure you are serious about any decision to reconcile.
After a Divorce Settlement Has Been Negotiated
Putting a divorce on hold becomes more difficult near the end of your case. If the divorce settlement agreement has been signed by the parties and/or filed with the court but not yet finalized, you can file a motion asking the court not to rule on the proceedings. This can give you more time to renegotiate or withdraw the divorce.
After the judge has signed the divorce decree, the divorce is finalized. Couples can appeal the divorce decree in rare cases, but this is a complex process that is typically only used if there was a legal issue in the case. If the couple wants to be married at this point, the easiest option is to simply get married again.
Communicating is the best way for couples to ensure a smooth divorce process. When both parties are on the same page about pausing the divorce process, it can be a useful tool that creates clarity, understanding, and harmony. It can also prevent couples from spending too much time and money on a divorce they ultimately do not want.