Can a Divorce be Reversed in Wisconsin?

One of the primary reasons, in addition to workload, that there is a waiting period on a divorce is to give the couple time to carefully consider this weighty decision before it is final. One spouse has 90 days to serve the other. The waiting period to finalize a divorce is 120 days. After that, the ability to reverse a divorce settlement becomes a case-by-case basis.

When Can a Divorce be Reversed?

There are terms in which relief from a judge's order[1] may be more common, including:

  • Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect
  • Newly discovered evidence that entitles a party to a new trial under 805.15[2]
  • Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party
  • Judgment is void
  • Judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged
  • Prior judgment in which the judgment is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated

Can I Change My Mind About a Divorce Settlement Before It Is Final?

If you signed an agreement a few years ago, during the initial divorce proceedings that were never finalized, then it may be understood that your intentions were to settle that specific case and not any forthcoming cases. This would also depend on the wording in the contract. Also, was the contract made before a judge, or witnessed, or was it notarized? More than likely, that contract will not be admissible in these proceedings if you have already agreed.

In the case of Thorpe v. Thorpe, 108 Wis. 2d 189, 321 N.W.2d 237 (1982)[3], a similar situation occurred. The wife had received the settlement during the first proceeding, but the divorce was never made final and the couple reconciled. The wife had spent most of the awarded settlement prior to reconciliation. When the couple decided to finalize their divorce sometime later, it was ultimately decided that the wife was entitled to the division of the marital property. This is one scenario. The outcome of your case would depend on the details of your contract.

Before the ink dries on divorce papers…

Assuming that the divorce agreement is not finalized, there is a window of time to retract the agreement. The lawyer usually moves forward with the paperwork. However, if the judge has not signed the paperwork already, there is still time to retract the marital settlement agreement. If both spouses have chosen to not go forward with the divorce, they would need to fill out a Stipulation and Order Suspending Proceedings to Effect Reconciliation form[4]. Also, contact any participating lawyer immediately to collect the divorce papers before it can proceed.

Any additional court dates would be canceled, if the form is submitted in time.

If either spouse chose to opt out of using a lawyer and filed for divorce independently, contact a Wisconsin court as soon as possible. However, should one of the spouses change his or her mind a second time and want to proceed, a Motion and Order to Revoke Suspension of Proceedings to Effect Reconciliation form[5] would need to be signed. The 90-day waiting period would resume again.

Appealing a court decision for divorce

Unfortunately one spouse cannot appeal a decree (official decision made by a court of law) that was reached with the other spouse, specifically if both spouses do not agree to rescind it. If the judge has ruled already, one spouse would have to reopen the divorce case for potential negotiations. Coercion or threats are more likely to be valid grounds to reopen a divorce settlement than simply changing one's mind, which is one of the main reasons there's a waiting period at all.

References: [1]Relief from a Judge's Order, [2]805.15, [3]Stipulation and Order Suspending…, [4]Motion and Order to Revoke…, [5]Thorpe v. Thorpe (1982)

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