Anytime a person is considering filing for a divorce, it is an important decision. There are families, finances and emotions involved in the process. Even when a divorce has been filed, the filing party can request a dismissal and work towards reconciliation. Celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Dempsey and David Beador, all filed for divorce but later dismissed the divorce action to reconcile with their spouse.
Parties will reconcile for many reasons and a Court does not use an attempt at reconciliation against the parties. During the divorce, the parties can make a joint request for a stay on the divorce proceedings to attempt reconciliation. This puts a pause on the divorce process while the parties attend counseling or make other known efforts to reconcile.
Reconciliation May Come with Risks
While this is advantageous to the parties, there are risks to a delay in the inevitable. While a divorce is pending, there is a mutual restraining order in place that prevents either party from withdrawing retirement accounts, bank accounts, selling off assets or incurring further debt in each spouses’ name. Once the divorce is dismissed, that order is released. Therefore, this allows either spouse to start transferring assets away or withdrawing funds from accounts. For one spouse this dismissal may be an honest attempt to reconcile, while the other spouse is taking this time to move assets or incur further debt.
It is common for people contemplating divorce to take time in deciding if they really want to file for divorce, go to mediation or work on the marriage. During this time, there is still a risk that one party will make a significant change to the marital property.
Considering Length of Marriage in a Divorce
If the parties dismiss their divorce and remain married, the length of marriage is continuing to grow. The Court awards each party an equitable portion of the marital assets and debts. So, as the marriage continues, the marital assets will continue to grow, and the outstanding debt may grow. Therefore, if parties continue to wait before getting a divorce, they may be responsible for more joint debt and, potentially, pay their spouse a larger settlement from the assets.
In addition, the award of spousal support is based on the length of marriage. For spousal support, the higher wage-earner will typically be ordered to pay their spouse support for a certain number of years. The term for spousal support is based on how long the parties remain married. As a result, it is important for parties to truly make an effort at reconciliation and not permit the other party to use this as a tactic to delay a divorce and obtain a longer term of spousal support.
If the parties truly work together and reconcile, that is the best option. However, I advise that clients remain realistic in that time period and be aware of any changes in the marital property. If they do notice any changes, they should timely contact an attorney and file for divorce.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this article, please contact KJK Family Law Partner Carly Boyd (CBOYD@kjk.com; 216.736.7254).