People change their minds all the time. You have likely known (or been part of) a couple who have broken up only to get back together. But, if you get divorced in New York, and you and your former spouse have decided to reconcile, can you get your judgment of divorce vacated as if it never happened?
A final judgment for dissolution of marriage is supposed to be just that: final. It is supposed to provide clarity and conclusion to the issues between the couple. That said, New York law recognizes that life is long and full of change. That’s why the law provides mechanisms for altering the terms of a divorce decree, custody arrangements, support payments in the event that there is a change in circumstances
Regret or buyer’s remorse is not a change in circumstance, however. The modifications allowed by the law to the terms of a divorce do not include vacating the divorce altogether simply because the couple wants to reconcile.
In one New York case, Doe v. Doe, a divorced couple who reconciled sought to vacate the judgement of a divorce. One of the parties swore in an affidavit that the couple "both regret the decision to ever get divorced and would much prefer wiping out this sad chapter of our lives. If we simply got remarried, we would forever be aware that a divorce judgment still exists between us."
The court refused to vacate the judgment, concerned that the parties could continue to involve the court over and over again if and when they once again changed their minds:
“Courts, however, are engaged in the serious business of dispensing justice and upholding principles of finality. One can imagine the discredit that would be earned by the court if it were to grant the motion and allow a vacatur only to be asked later by the parties, who would not be able to conclude where they should live, to vacate the vacatur…”
The court was, however, happy for the couple and offered them the following guidance:
“The court thus congratulates the plaintiff and the defendant on their professed reconciliation, but reminds them that the role of the court ended last year when it issued a final decree of divorce. The remedy for these former litigants is to make new vows and a fresh start by remarrying, in their discretion.”
If you are considering a divorce or have a family law issue that you’d like to discuss with an experienced New York and New Jersey attorney, give Daniel Clement of Clement Law a call at (212) 683-9551 or fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.