Can Divorce Papers Be Rescinded Once Signed?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Can Divorce Papers Be Rescinded Once Signed?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Whether or not divorce papers can be rescinded once they have been signed depends on additional facts and circumstances. In some cases, they can, but in other cases, they can't. This is because divorce cases tend to proceed through the court system in a series of steps, some of which are reversible, and some of which are not. Consequently, the first analysis has to do with where one is in the divorce proceedings to know whether or not they can rescind.

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Filing a Petition or Complaint

States use different terms to refer to the initial filing for divorce. Some states refer to the initial papers one files asking for a divorce as a petition while others refer to it as a complaint. In either event, the party seeking the divorce, along with their lawyer if they have one, fills out paperwork providing the following information:

  • Grounds for the divorce
  • Assets and debts of of both parties
  • Name and age of any minor children
  • Temporary child support and alimony request(s), if applicable

If this is as far as the divorce has gone in the court system, you may withdraw your petition or complaint without penalty. However, once it is filed and served on the other party, they have a specific amount of time to respond. They may file a counter petition or complaint, alleging their own grounds for divorce, or seeking a different parenting time schedule, child support obligations, or alimony order.

During this time, you can still withdraw your petition or complaint. However, if you do so, and your spouse doesn't agree to withdrawal their response, the divorce proceedings will not stop there. In this case, the court will only have your spouse's divorce proposal or response to work off of. This will likely result in a less favorable resolution of your case.

Signing a Divorce Settlement

After one files a petition or complaint, many states require couples to attend mediation or make other attempts to resolve their case without the need for a divorce trial. In some cases, the divorce attorneys negotiate a settlement on behalf of their clients. In collaborative divorce cases, the attorneys and spouses work together to come to a mutual resolution of the matter. In other cases, a mediator assists the parties in coming up with a resolution.

Once the parties come to an agreement, it is written up into a divorce settlement, signed by both parties, and then filed with the court. If, for example, you sign the document on a Saturday, with the understanding that your lawyer will file the agreement with the court on Monday, you may be able to rescind your signature by or before Monday.

Once the court signs off on the divorce decree, either based on a settlement agreement or after a trial, it becomes legally binding on the parties. However, if one party can prove fraud on the part of the other party, such as hiding assets or coercing them into signing the documents, it is possible that the court will re-open the case.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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