While most divorced spouses do fully move on from each other with the passage of time, there are couples who fall back in love, or grow stronger in their love after a period of separation. There are also couples who reconcile as a matter of practicality, or in order to do what they feel is best for their kids. For these spouses, the option to “undo” a divorce would be convenient, but this is not an option in New Jersey upon the issuance of the final judgment of divorce. There was a time when couples were given a 3 month waiting period after the final judgement, during which they could appeal or challenge the decision. This cooling off-period was done away with in 1969, and since then, the courts have consistently agreed that there is no statutory basis which would allows the courts to vacate a final decree of divorce.
A divorce from bed and board, however, is a different matter. Also known as a “limited divorce”, a bed and board divorce is a form of legal separation, which allows spouses to maintain separate lives while remaining married. There is statutory authorization for the dissolution of bed and board divorces with the consent of both parties, which is why many couples take this step prior to filing for an actual divorce. If a couple decides to reconcile, they can simply file for a revocation or suspension of the judgment of divorce from bed and board.
As for an actual divorce, a final judgment can only be vacated under the following grounds, according to Rule 4:50-1 (Relief from Judgment or Order).
- Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
- Newly discovered evidence which would probably alter the judgment or order and which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under R. 4:49.
- Fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party.
- The judgment or order is void.
- The judgment or order has been satisfied, released or discharged, or a prior order or judgment upon which it is based has been otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment or order should have prospective application.
- Any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment or order.
These grounds are complex, and often difficult to prove, which is why a final judgment of divorce is almost always “final”. This means that until there are specific changes in the laws, the only viable option for most reconciling couples is remarriage. While getting married again may seem like an unnecessary hassle, it's also an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment, and legally ensure your right to spousal privileges such as inheritance and pension rights. You may want to discuss these, and other legal considerations with an attorney prior to getting remarried. The family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. will be happy to address all your concerns during a free initial consultation.