How to Resolve an Unwanted Divorce

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

Your spouse wants a divorce. You want to save the marriage. There are legal ways to resolve an unwanted divorce, including delaying the divorce court proceedings and seeking reconciliation.

History

Roman couples could divorce easily in the early years of the Roman empire. A married couple assembled seven witnesses and told the witnesses they wanted to divorce. After Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, divorce became very difficult, because medieval Christianity opposed divorces. The early American colonies followed British law, generally allowing divorce for only a few reasons, such as adultery or impotence, known as "at fault" divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

As late as 1969, it was easy for a spouse to legally delay and sometimes prevent a divorce because the at-fault divorce laws were so restrictive. Between 1969 and 2011, however, all 50 states passed "no-fault" divorce laws, allowing a discontented spouse to file for divorce on the grounds that the couple has irreconcilable differences, allowing divorce even when the other spouse opposes it.

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Reconciliation Options

American courts were interested in promoting reconciliation for divorcing couples in the mid-1960s. The passage of no-fault laws caused the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction and the number of divorces skyrocketed. Within the last decade, a renewed interest in helping divorcing couples reconcile has appeared within the legal system. If your spouse has not filed for divorce yet, ask your spouse to enter marriage counseling with you. Try to find a therapist who has training in marital reconciliation or discernment counseling, or a lawyer who is trained in family mediation. A marriage reconciliation lawyer, a relatively new type of family law mediator, may have specialized training in communication issues as well as divorce law concerns, and will work with you and your spouse on reconciliation.

Court-Ordered Mediation

If your spouse has already filed for divorce, you will receive a copy of the petition, along with a summons asking you to file an answer to the petition with the family court. You can state in your answer that you do not want a divorce. Your state's divorce laws may allow you to request the judge order you and your spouse to enter mediation. Find out if your state government or courts offer discernment counseling or reconciliation programs. Texas law permits couples to consult a discernment counselor to explore whether they should reconcile. The Minnesota legislature funded a pilot project in 2010 to develop state discernment counseling services for couples contemplating divorce who are interested in reconciliation.

Divorce Case Termination

If your spouse has already filed for divorce, the power to call off the divorce case rests with your spouse. You cannot permanently stop court divorce proceedings unless you can persuade your spouse to file paperwork requesting the court to end the divorce proceedings.

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What Is the Origin of Divorce?

References

Resources

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