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Can New Yorkers 'undo' their divorce later?

Divorce does not always mean the end of your relationship with your former husband or wife. Parents usually still have the obligation to maintain some level of communication and cooperation to successfully co-parent the kids. And, as we discussed in our Dec. 4 post, it is not uncommon for divorced or separated couples to occasionally have sex with each other.

Sometimes, couples are even able to patch up their problems and reunite permanently. Depending on the timing and circumstances of the reconciliation, the couple might choose to get remarried, or wish to void their divorce. A handful of states allow judges to vacate a divorce decree a certain amount of time after it is issued, or due to certain circumstances, if the spouses request it.

However, this right is not guaranteed in most of the country. New York courts have ruled that they have no statutory authority to vacate a divorce. Reconciled exes in Buffalo would thus have to continue to abide by the terms of their divorce, though some of those terms may become moot if they remarry.

The matter recently came before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. A couple in that state got divorced in 2014. But by March 2015, the couple had reconciled. They petitioned the court to vacate their divorce decree. It appears that they wanted this partly because of “some business interests” that would make remarrying more complicated than restoring their old marriage, the Court noted.

But that was not a good enough reason. The Court ruled unanimously that state law in New Hampshire allows a divorce to be vacated for four reasons: fraud, accident, mistake or misfortune. None of those reasons applied to this case, the justices reasoned. And there is no statutory authority granting judges the power to undo a divorce simply because the exes want to restore their marriage.

Undoing divorce may not be possible in New York, but many couples are able to maintain cordial, even friendly relations after divorce. It helps when the couple has negotiated the terms of their divorce themselves, with the help of their attorneys, of course.

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