The beloved Dr. Seuss character, Sam-I-Am, spends much of Green Eggs and Ham refusing the food. Then he changes his mind, and discovers he loves the oddly colored treat. Everyone, from furry hat-wearing creatures to men seeking divorce, can change their minds. What if you are wavering, on the fence, doubting if you should file for divorce—can you take it back?
Want a Quick Divorce? Virginia is Not Reno
Back in 1931 Nevada changed its laws to allow a scant six weeks for residency before a person could file for divorce. The state still makes a lot of money off that. This means a decision you make the first day of winter could be final and done by February 1 of the following year. This means you can go through the whole process in quick order, so fast you hardly have time to doubt the decision.
Virginia is not Reno. You cannot go from residency to filing to finish in six weeks. This means in Virginia you have time to mull the decision, or get cold feet. You can question what you were even thinking, and decide to put a stop to it.
In Virginia, one of the two of you has to reside in the state for at least six months. You can look for yourself in the Code of Virginia, Title 20, Section 20-97.
What You Paid For
You started the divorce process rolling by (wisely) hiring an attorney to protect your interests. You may have rashly considered one of those do-it-yourself websites but realized a lot was at stake, so you hired an experienced divorce lawyer. That means you have spent money on time and paperwork, but better to stop the process sooner rather than later.
If you have doubts, come clean to your attorney as soon as possible. Friendly as she or he may be, you both know this is a business transaction, so do not worry about offending your lawyer or being embarrassed by saying you want to back out. Far better to keep your attorney apprised of your thinking than to let costs and time get away from you.
Who Does What When Stopping a Divorce Filing?
If you filed for divorce, you are in control throughout most of the process. If your wife filed against you, you cannot stop the divorce, but she can.
If you or your attorney filed for divorce and, early in the proceedings, you want to stop, you or your attorney must go to the courthouse of the county in which you filed and speak to the clerk. In Virginia, according to the clerk of the Fairfax County Court, “It should be noted that there are no fill-in-the-blank forms for divorce PREPARED BY OR APPROVED BY THE VIRGINIA COURT SYSTEM.” That’s clerk John T. Frey’s emphasis, not ours. Apparently Mr. Frey wants nobody to think he’s holding out on them. His point, though, is well taken: do not trust the internet to disgorge the right form for your county’s courthouse.
You—or your attorney—will complete and file the paperwork to stop the earlier paperwork. You are making a motion to dismiss the case, and you do not owe the clerk, the judge or the court an explanation for your change of mind. Virginia’s own James Madison changed his mind, and nobody gave him grief about it (He favored a strong central government at first—you know, back when he was crafting the U.S. Constitution—before moving to a strong states’ rights position. Okay, history lesson over).
Anyway, the court clerk will have a process server notify your spouse (and her attorney) that the divorce proceeding has been dismissed.
That’s it. Divorce stopped. Kiss and make up?
What if I’m Deep in the Divorce Process?
What if you are past the discovery phase, past motions; maybe you’re even at the final hearing? You can still bow out right up to the final ruling. Your attorney, instead of filing a paper motion with the clerk, would ask the judge (the court) to dismiss the case because you changed your mind. Here, though, the judge could fairly and legally ask for an explanation of wasting the court’s time.
- You had second thoughts because you realized the mother of your children, despite differences between you and she, is still important to you
- You mistakenly accused her of adultery (or, yikes! sodomy or buggery outside of marriage) when she was merely washing the family dog
- You learned late that she is—as you earlier suspected after binge-watching The Grinder—not, in fact, a convicted felon
Trust a Skilled Divorce Lawyer
Again, turn to your attorney for help. Whether you are thinking about divorce or simply have questions, contact The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184 to be connected to a Virginia lawyer capable of helping you through the tough decisions. And, whether you go through with your divorce or not, The Firm for Men is here for you. We’re proud to serve Virginia Beach and the surrounding areas from Chesapeake to Newport News, Norfolk to Hampton!