How to Reconcile during the divorce
In Wisconsin, there are two ways that a couple can try to reconcile during the divorce process. The first way, and the one that I routinely recommend to my clients who inquire about reconciling, is to enter into a 90 day agreement to put the divorce on hold while the parties work on their marriage. The second way, and the more drastic way, is to simply agree to dismiss the divorce case. The problem with the second way, is that if you change your mind and the reconciliation doesn’t work out, you need to start by re-filing a brand new divorce case, pay a new filing fee, wait another 120 day waiting period and pay more in attorney’s fees and costs to start another divorce case.
The better way, and one that is filled with options and choices is to effect a 90 day suspension of the divorce and try to reconcile. If at the end of the 90 days the reconciliation has worked out, the divorce case can be dismissed. If at the of the 90 days, the reconciliation attempt hasn’t worked out, one can proceed with the divorce and complete the case. If during the 90 day reconciliation, things do not seem to be working, one can proceed by requesting of the court that the 90 day suspension be vacated so that you can proceed with the divorce.
I also think doing the 90 day agreement to reconcile and suspending divorce makes sense, because it shows a real commitment, both legally and practically to try to work on the marriage to avoid the divorce. I have seen too many people over the years change their minds back and forth with whether they should stay married or proceed with the divorce where just dismissing the divorce really makes no sense.
I am sometimes asked if you can piggy back a 2nd 90 day suspension onto the first reconciliation attempt, and the answer is “maybe.” The statute makes no mention of the court being allowed to grant a 2nd 90 day hold on the divorce, but I have had some judges grant the request. The full text of the reconciliation statute appears below;
767.323 Suspension of proceedings to effect reconciliation. “During the pendency of an action for divorce or legal separation, the court may, upon written stipulation of both parties that they desire to attempt a reconciliation, enter an order suspending any and all orders and proceedings for such period, not exceeding 90 days, as the court determines advisable to permit the parties to attempt a reconciliation without prejudice to their respective rights. During the suspension period, the parties may resume living together as husband and wife and their acts and conduct do not constitute an admission that the marriage is not irretrievably broken or a waiver of the ground that the parties have voluntarily lived apart continuously for 12 months or more immediately prior to the commencement of the action. Suspension may be revoked upon the motion of either party by an order of the court. If the parties become reconciled, the court shall dismiss the action. If the parties are not reconciled after the period of suspension, the action shall proceed as though no reconciliation period was attempted.”
While reconciliations are not that common, when we do hear from our clients that they want to try to work things out and suspend the divorce, it is really a breath of fresh air. This may sound strange coming from a divorce lawyer, but we owe it in every case to explore with our clients to try to stay married and work things out, if the parties can salvage their relationship. Except in cases of domestic violence or other abuse cases, I ask at the first meeting, during the 120 day waiting period and even at the time of the final court hearing, if there is any chance of saving the marriage and reconciling. Don’t be embarrassed to ask!
If you have questions about going through a divorce or making an attempt at reconciliation during the divorce process, feel free to call one of our experienced family lawyers at Karp & Iancu at any time, to discuss your case.