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Stopping a Divorce

Please note that the following guide only applies to divorces started before 4pm on 5th April 2022. For divorces after this date, no fault divorce now applies.

Clients going through a divorce sometimes query whether divorce proceedings can be stopped once they have started. The answer is yes, however this is dependent on whether this is the decision of both parties or just one. 

Both parties wish to stop a divorce 

Generally, by the time that matters reach the stage where divorce proceedings are initiated, at least one spouse generally no longer wishes to remain married. However, it is not unheard of for a couple to regret the decision and to decide that they do not want to proceed with the divorce. How easy it is to do this depends on the stage that proceedings have reached.  

Before the Decree Nisi 

Once divorce papers have been issued, proceedings can easily be stopped if both parties consent. Starting divorce proceedings does not mean that they automatically have to be finalised, and at this stage no orders have been made by the court and the parties can decide that they do not wish to proceed. The divorce papers will still be held on court file and if desired, it is possible to ask the court to either: 

Withdraw the divorce petition if these have not yet been served on the other party. 

Dismiss the divorce petition where the papers have been served on the other party. 

Between the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute 

Even when the decree nisi has been served, this does not mean that divorce is inevitable. A decree nisi is simply the courts confirmation that it is satisfied that the divorce can proceed as opposed to confirming the divorce has happened, which is the purpose of the decree absolute. There is a delay of six weeks and one day between a decree nisi being issued and being allowed to apply for the decree absolute, partly to give the parties a period of time out to reflect that this is what they want.  

Where the parties agree that they want proceedings to stop, an application can be made to the court to rescind the decree nisi.  

After the Decree Absolute 

Once the decree absolute has been granted, the marriage has officially ended and it is no longer possible to change your mind. If a couple decides at this point that they wish to be married, then they will have to remarry- unless there is a procedural irregularity it is not possible to reverse a decree absolute. 

One party wishes to stop a divorce 

The situation is different where only one party wishes to stop the divorce from happening. It is possible for the party that received the divorce papers from their spouse to contest the divorce and argue that the relationship has not irretrievably broken down. It should be highlighted that this is likely to be a costly exercise and ultimately the other party can file for divorce without consent once they have been separated for five years.  

Another thing to bear in mind is that from 6th April 2022, the introduction of the new no fault divorce will remove the ability of the other party to contest and stop the divorce. 

One issue that may be relevant here and require legal advice is where there are jurisdictional issues for a particular case that can affect whether it is permissible for the divorce proceedings to commence (or whether they should be halted) in England and Wales.  

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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