A divorce is an emotionally charged experience, which is why Colorado requires a 91-day wait, or “cooling-off period” after the initial petition. During this waiting period, a small percentage of spouses decide to reconcile. While a reconciliation is the best-case scenario for a family, many spouses in this situation wonder—what happens if they change their minds? How do you stop the divorce process from moving forward after the petition has already been filed?
Dismissing a Divorce Case as the Petitioner
The easiest way to stop a divorce after filing the petition is for the petitioner to notify the court and file a motion to dismiss. If the other spouse has not yet filed a response, the court will simply close the case without any further action required. However, if the other spouse has entered the case by filing a response, then the petitioner alone cannot file a motion to dismiss. Instead, both parties must agree and file for a stay of the proceedings.
What Is a Stay of Divorce Proceedings in Colorado Court?
As long as one spouse wishes a divorce to continue, there isn’t anything the other spouse can do to stop it. Whether the petitioner or the respondent, it only takes one of the pair to believe that the marriage is irretrievably broken for the process to move forward.
Even if the reluctant spouse doesn’t sign the papers or appear in court, the spouse who wishes the divorce to move forward can still get a divorce through default. A default divorce takes place in a one-sided proceeding in which only one spouse appears. When the other spouse fails to respond or appear in court, they give up their right to make their own requests for the division of their assets, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance (alimony).
However, if both spouses agree that they no longer want to divorce, they can file a motion for a stay of divorce proceedings. This motion puts the divorce on hold, typically for 90 days. During this time, the spouses decide if they wish to reconcile or if they want to restart the divorce process.
During the 90 days, either spouse can choose to remove the stay and put the divorce back in motion. On the other hand, if both spouses agree to remain married, they can request a stipulation for a case dismissal from the court. Colorado courts are always happy to dismiss divorce proceedings for a couple who has reconciled.
Changing the Divorce Proceeding to a Legal Separation in Colorado
Most spouses who ask for a stay of divorce proceedings either advise the court to continue with the divorce or ask for a dismissal. If the spouses do neither, the case is automatically dismissed by the court after the stay of divorce expires.
However, there is one other option that some undecided spouses resort to in situations where they aren’t sure if they wish to divorce or reconcile but need legal boundaries and guidelines for child custody, child support, and spousal support while they decide their future. Unsure spouses can ask the court to convert the divorce proceeding to a legal separation.
In a legal separation in Colorado, the court puts orders in place for shared parenting time, child support, and spousal support if required just as they would for a divorce, but the spouses remain legally married. A legal separation puts protections in place, such as allowing one spouse to provide health insurance coverage for the other, as they continue as legal spouses while they live separately and decide if they want to reconcile or move forward with the divorce.
It’s important to speak to a Denver divorce attorney about your options for stopping a divorce after filing or responding to a divorce petition.