Divorce is a process. Divorce is not a “never look back” decision. In fact, if you had children with your spouse your relationship will never be truly over. You’ll always be in each other’s lives through your children’s lives.
So, divorce is a big deal but divorce can be put on pause at any point throughout the many stages of the divorce process. Let’s work through each time we can put a divorce on hold.
Before the Divorce is Filed.
You don’t need to file the divorce to work on the divorce. Many divorce cases will be done entirely before filing the divorce. The lawyers exchange all the discovery and final documents by agreement. This creates a non-confrontational environment where the parties may more easily come to an agreement.
Needless, to say, if the case has not been filed, either party can say, “let’s put this on pause for now.” This will either stop the divorce or force one party to file.
This disadvantage to not filing is that the maintenance period will be extended based on the filing date. If you don’t file, the clock keeps ticking and the period during which maintenance is paid gets longer and longer (which is a good or bad thing depending on your position).
As an interesting side note, this is how all celebrities get divorced. Otherwise, all of their private information becomes public knowledge even if the court seals the divorce. That’s why we never hear about celebrity divorces unless there are issues with the children like Kevin Federline getting custody of Britney Spears’ kids.
After the Divorce Petition Is Filed.
After the divorce petition is filed nothing HAS to happen. If there are no temporary motions there are no court dates and, therefore, the case is essentially on hold. If there’s no court order there’s no difference between you being married and you being in the process of divorce.
Sooner or later, you’re going to have to go to court. In Cook County’s Domestic Relations division you are required to go to court 6 months after the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
“All cases shall be called for status report no later than 6 months after the case is filed. Failure of the petitioner to answer the status call shall result in a dismissal for want of prosecution.” Cook County Court Rule 13.4(h)
At this status date or any court date, the judge is going to want to know what’s going on and how the case is progressing. You can still put your divorce on hold after this point, though.
After The First Court Appearance.
At any time, if the parties agree, the divorce case can be put on the reconciliation calendar.
“Reconciliation Calendar – There shall be established a reconciliation calendar for parties attempting to reconcile. Assignment to this calendar may be made by the judge to whom the case is assigned or the Presiding Judge, by the written agreement of both parties. The agreement shall specifically state that the parties are requesting that proceedings be suspended during the time they are seeking a reconciliation. The petition or agreement shall also be accompanied by a reconciliation plan which shall specifically state what the parties are doing in an attempt to reconcile. During this period, no progress shall be required of the case, except as hereinafter provided.” Cook County Court Rule 13.2(g)
The Cook County Court Rule requires a “reconciliation plan” but almost no judges require you to actually make one.
“All cases on the reconciliation calendar shall be called for status within one year, and if the matter has been on the calendar for twelve (12) months it will be dismissed or returned to the active calendar. If the case has been on the reconciliation calendar for less than twelve (12) months on the status date, then the court may continue the case on the reconciliation calendar for a period not to exceed twelve (12) months. Failure of the petitioner to respond to the status call shall result in a dismissal for want of prosecution.” Cook County Court Rule 13.2(g)(i)
Pursuant to the rule, the reconciliation period can last up to a year…but every judge I’ve been before in Cook County only allows six months.
“Upon motion of either party, the case shall be removed from the reconciliation calendar and returned to the active calendar.” Cook County Court Rule 13.2(g)(ii)
So, while both parties have to agree to enter into reconciliation, either party can pull them back into court by filing a motion.
“During the pendency of any case on the reconciliation calendar, all prior orders of court, including access to the court for enforcement and discovery, shall be considered suspended, unless otherwise expressly agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court.” Cook County Court Rule 13.2(g)(iii)
This part’s a little sneaky, all temporary orders are also put on hold during the reconciliation unless the parties agree. No one is going to want to reconcile if their child support and/or maintenance gets cut off. So, you have to accompany the reconciliation order with an order to maintain whatever temporary orders you need to keep in place.
What Happens After The Reconciliation Period?
You can ask the judge, “Hey how about a few more months while we work it out,” but every judge I’ve tried that with says…”No. This divorce is either happening or it isn’t.”
You can still ask the judge for a long status date which effectively puts the case on hold a little longer.
Can You Work Your Relationship Out While Getting A Divorce?
Believe it or not, you can reconcile even during the divorce process. I have had several clients get back together during their divorce. I don’t know all the details but I did recognize one common feature: they weren’t dating other people.
Divorce is hard and extremely unpleasant. It’s nice to know that it doesn’t always mean the end even if it often does. Contact my Chicago law office to learn more about ALL of your options. I’m not just a divorce lawyer, I’m also a husband and a human being who cares.