Unless intertwined with some unusual circumstances, divorce in Virginia is a civil, not a criminal, matter. While you can be charged with filing a false police report under Virginia Code § 18.2-461, if you change your mind after filing for divorce, you have not committed any crime and cannot be charged with filing a false divorce petition. Undoing what you have started, though, takes a bit of work.
We’re Glad for You
Though Virginia family law attorneys make comfortable livings off divorce in the Commonwealth, we are also very happy when divorcing couples reconcile. The state’s divorce and marriage rates stay fairly constant, so the occasional change of heart really does not skew the numbers.
Filing for divorce took you time, money and (we hope) a lot of mental effort to reach your decision. Perhaps you hesitantly asked your attorney to file divorce papers, hopeful you and your wife could somehow fix what is broken in the meantime.
Reconciling During Separation
Once you separate in Virginia, the clock starts and the “race” is on: either six months without children, or a year with children, for an uncontested divorce (that’s the most genteel kind — believe us, you want to avoid contested divorce).
Your ease of reconciling depends upon where, along the track to finalized divorce, you are. If you filed a month ago and have not yet gotten past the waiting period, withdrawing the petition involves your lawyer’s time and a few court papers. Virginia courts are eager to handle fewer divorces, so the Virginia judge will likely grant wide leeway to your attorney.
If, though, you are far down the track and have reached the finish line (the final decree), you two are actually completely totally really divorced.
You have one reconciliation remedy: remarriage. You two have gone through a very expensive trust exercise and can undo it only by vowing “I do.”
Freedom of Choice
American philosopher Corliss Lamont said, “I believe firmly that in making ethical decisions, man has the prerogative of true freedom of choice.” The decisions to marry, divorce, and reconcile are all deeply felt moral decisions, so though your wife may suffer from the emotional roller coaster you put yourselves on, in the end keeping the marriage intact will benefit you, your wife and your children.
The Reconciliation Clause
Most attorneys will inject a standard reconciliation clause in a Virginia property settlement agreement that states something along these lines:
Should the parties to this property settlement agreement reconcile their differences and reunite as a married couple cohabitating under one roof of a marital home, yet then separate once again due to irreconcilable differences, this signed property settlement agreement shall survive in full force and effect.
This is a way to have a bit of cake and eat it too: you can file for divorce, work through a property settlement agreement, change your mind, and then change your mind yet again.
If you come back to the conference table a second time, the agreement you both signed in the first go-round will still be in effect. Neither of you will have gained or lost anything by changing your mind.
On the other hand, if you reconcile and stay reconciled, the property settlement agreement is mooted.
And Then There’s Her View
Of course, for every quotation out there, the counter-argument exists. Pearl Bailey plaintively sings the woman’s argument that it is the woman’s prerogative to change her mind.
In seeking a divorce, if you filed and provided generous terms to make the deal attractive to your wife, your reconciliation may have to include some “sweetener” to your wife to help you withdraw the divorce filing.
If you offered her the marital home and a car, with the agreement that she would not contest the divorce, she may need some reassurance about the reconciliation.
Did You Reconcile on Accident? Meet The Marital Bed
What counts as marital reconciliation after you file for divorce? There is not coy way to say this: resuming sexual relations means you have reconciled. You are once again treating each other as husband and wife, with full benefits, so your waiting period is over. You either put an end to the divorce or you restart the clock from the morning after your dalliance.
Other activities that can be interpreted as reconciliation:
- Moving back into the marital home
- Withdrawing the petition to divorce
- Buying her gifts and groceries
- Cooking, cleaning, picking up her dry cleaning
- Any little thing you do that indicates you still consider yourself in a relationship with her
We are not saying they automatically say you are reconciled; we are saying your wife’s attorney could use all these events to say you have changed your mind. And perhaps you have, even as your mind still ping-pongs between divorce and resolving your differences. You just may not realize it yet.
When you call 757-383-9184 to speak with a Virginia family law attorney, you reach the experienced lawyers at The Firm For Men. We are ready to listen to you (or, if you contact us online, read what you have to say). We defend men’s rights every day, including the right to change your mind.