Almost no one walks down the marriage aisle expecting it to be a pathway to divorce, but when people change, goals change, or life gets in the way, California courts offer a dissolution of marriage agreement (divorce) as a remedy.

By the time the multi-step procedure becomes final, most spouses are relieved to see the ink dry on the paperwork so they can move forward from the distressing process. However, California divorce courts sometimes see requests from one or both spouses to reverse a divorce decree, to halt the process, or to make modifications. In the best case scenario, this request may be due to a reconciliation, but more often, divorcing spouses seek to reverse a final divorce decree because they don’t agree with the trial judgment.

When is it too late to reverse a divorce in California?

Dismissing a Divorce Case

If you and your spouse have reconciled, it may not be too late to stop the divorce process before your final hearing date. A divorce doesn’t become final until the judge signs off on a custody agreement and/or settlement agreement for assets and debts and issues the final decree. If you were the petitioner in the divorce, and your spouse has not yet filed their response, you can simply dismiss the case by filling out forms for dismissal. If your spouse has already filed a response, the courts won’t stop the process without your spouse’s signed agreement.

It’s important to keep in mind that once you’ve dismissed your divorce case, you’ll have to start the process all over again if you change your mind and decide to move forward with a divorce. Some couples choose a legal separation while they take their time deciding on the future of their relationship. A legal separation puts a framework in place for child custody and support while a couple undergoes counseling or takes time apart. Ultimately, a legal separation moves forward smoothly into a divorce if parting becomes inevitable.

Can I Change a California Divorce Judgment?

Depending on your reasons for seeking a change in a divorce judgment, the California court offers specific legal ways to seek remedies. While most final decrees are meant to be just that, you can address a desired change in the following ways:

  • Appealing the full divorce agreement
  • Filing a motion to modify one or more specific judgments

Appealing a divorce agreement isn’t a simple process. The courts won’t consider granting this motion unless it’s based on proof of bad faith—such as showing that a spouse hid assets, or misrepresented a custody situation that could affect a child’s safety—or that the judge on the case misapplied a law. A court may also grant a motion for appeal if a spouse can show that they were under duress at the time of the agreement, such as under a threat of violence by their spouse.

Filing a motion to modify one or more separate judgements, such as the amount of child or spousal support, or a matter of child custody, is more common than appealing the entire judgment, but it’s important to note that a court will only reopen a divorce case if there is a compelling reason to seek a modification, such as a sudden change in financial circumstances or a new disability.

If you have questions about reversing one or more judgments in your final divorce decree or halting the process of divorce completely, a Los Angeles divorce attorney can help.