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Ocean County Divorce Lawyer-Can Reconciliation be Grounds for Vacating a Divorce?

Posted by Unknown | Jul 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

New Jersey's court rules provide a set of reasons under which a final judgment of divorce may be vacated, including the all-too subjective reason (f): “Any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the Judgment or Order.”  The wording seems to invite all kinds of arguments, perhaps even the right to reconcile rather than remarry.  Some may wonder, what's the difference, but the time in between the marriages can have an adverse effect on financial interests such as social security and pension rights.  Dependent social security benefits, for example, are based on the years in which you were officially married to the spouse under whose record you are claiming.  If one were to vacate the divorce judgment, that would mean that you were technically married all along, which would be very beneficial in the calculation of your benefit amount.

Unfortunately, that has yet to be a good enough reason for any state to grant an “un-divorce”, although a couple in Vermont tried as recently as 2014.  In The Matter of Terrie Harmon and Thomas McCarron, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling, which stated that there was no statutory authorization for vacating divorce judgments on grounds of reconciliation.  This was, in their was, a case of changing one's mind after voluntarily undergoing a legal process as serious as divorce.  As for the couple's arguments pertaining to their finances, the court advised that these “adverse impacts” were self-imposed, thus getting remarried was an adequate remedy.  While the New Jersey courts have not had to rule on this specific issue, their ruling is likely to have been the same.  After all, New Jersey does give spouses the right to file for divorce from bed and board, which is similar to what most other states refer to as legal separation.  This arrangement allows couples to remain legally married, while resuming separate residences and negotiate issues such as alimony and child support.  A divorce from bed and board can be vacated upon mutual agreement, but couples can also proceed with a divorce filing if reconciliation is no longer an option.

In addition, there are cases related to post-divorce reconciliation, which illustrate New Jersey's stance on the gravitas of divorce.  Weiner v. Weiner, for example, upheld that while reconciliation before the final judgment abrogated support provisions, reconciliation after the judgment would not abrogate such obligations.  One notable exception to treating each marriage and/or separation as “separate” was Capuzzo v. Capuzzo.  In this case, the duration of time between the initial divorce, remarriage and subsequent divorce was so short that the court decided to view the entire situation as one continuous marriage.  This is, however, a very rare exception, and did not involve the specific issue of vacating a judgment of divorce.  It would be interesting to see how the New Jersey courts decide on the issue of “un-divorcing”, but spouses should be aware that there is no statutory basis or case law for vacating a final judgment of divorce.

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Vincent DeLuca, Esq.

As a founding partner at Villani & DeLuca, Vincent DeLuca is one of only a few Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney in Ocean County, New Jersey. Mr. DeLuca has helped many clients navigate the delicate details of their own divorce. Mr. DeLuca is also a trained divorce mediator and collaborative divorce attorney. Call today at (732) 751-4991 to speak to Mr. DeLuca or one of our experienced NJ Divorce Lawyers.