Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stopping the Divorce

I was thinking about posting on this topic and then I saw this post on the Tennessee Divorce and Family Law Blog. Mr. Justice has some very good points but I was hit hard by this:

Sometimes clients think that their divorce lawyer will get mad at them if they change their minds, this is not true. I am always happy when a client decides to try and save their marriage.
There is whole lot of truth in those two sentences. I cannot imagine a divorce lawyer who seriously practices family and is not happier that a client reconciled.

I would point out that Tennessee law is not Indiana law. Our statutes recognize reconciliation in two ways. First, the Petitioner can file a Motion to Dismiss:
IC 31-15-2-12 Motion to dismiss by party who filed action; counter petition; hearing
(a) This section applies if a party who filed an action for dissolution of marriage under section 2 of this chapter (or IC 31-1-11.5-3(a) before its repeal) files a motion to dismiss the action.
(b) A party that files an action shall serve each other party to the action with a copy of the motion.
(c) A party to the action may file a counter petition under section 2 of this chapter not later than five (5) days after the filing of the motion to dismiss. If a party files a counter petition under this subsection, the court shall set the petition and counter petition for final hearing not earlier than sixty (60) days after the initial petition was filed.
I think our procedure sets out a quick way to determine if the other party sincerely wants the reconciliation.

The second place for a reconciliation to occur is at the Final Hearing:
IC 31-15-2-15 Final hearing; evidence; dissolution decree; continuance; motion for dissolution
(a) At the final hearing on a petition for dissolution of marriage the court shall consider evidence, including agreements and verified pleadings filed with the court. If the court finds that the material allegations of the petition are true, the court:
(1) shall enter a dissolution decree as provided in section 16 of this chapter; or
(2) if the court finds that there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation, may continue the matter and order the parties to seek reconciliation through any available counseling.
(b) At any time forty-five (45) days after the date of a continuance:
(1) either party may move for the dissolution of the marriage; and
(2) the court may enter a dissolution decree as provided in section 16 of this chapter.
(c) If no motion for the dissolution is filed, the matter shall be, automatically and without further action by the court, dismissed after the expiration of ninety (90) days from the date of continuance.
I have never seen a court decide that there was a "reasonable possibility of reconciliation" but I have heard a commissioner tell a pro se Respondent that the only thing the commissioner was sure of was that the Respondent would be divorced that day. I tell my Petitioner clients that they control the decision of whether they will be divorced or not. Many have decided to reconcile before the Final Hearing but none have ever gone to the Final Hearing and been anything but adamant that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

A footnote to the counseling that the court could order, Indiana's Family Code devotes an entire chapter to the idea.

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