Occasionally in divorce, the parties wish to try to reconcile while leaving the suit for divorce active in the Court’s system. The three most common questions are: (1) are there any “official” requirements to put the cause on pause; (2) how long can a case be on pause; and, (3) if we decide to end the divorce, how do we do that? This blog will deal only with the first question: what, if any, official requirements exist to put a divorce case on pause. The second and third questions will be dealt with separately in my next two blogs.
Regarding the first question, while there are no official requirements for putting a case on pause, my preferred technique is for the two attorneys to file a “Rule 11 Agreement” that agrees to suspend the litigation, pending further notice. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 11 specifies that for any agreement between the parties or attorney to be enforceable by the Court, it must be in writing and filed with the Court (hence, the term “Rule 11 Agreement”). In general, the agreement should state the following:
- That the parties wish to to suspend all litigation activities to provide for a period of time for attempted reconciliation;
- That during the period of suspension, any pending discovery requests are abated (i.e. on hold, with deadlines to be reestablished if the suspension is later lifted), and neither party will initiate any new discovery requests or make settings for further hearings or final trial;
- That either party may terminate the suspension of litigation and resume the case upon written notice to the other party, by and through the other party’s attorney of record; and,
- That the Rule 11 Agreement for Suspension of Litigation and an Notice of Termination of Suspension of Litigation shall be filed with the Court.
From a practical perspective, any attempt at reconciliation should be given about 4 to 6 months before the parties decide whether to terminate the divorce. The 4 to 6 month period is a prudent time frame because a commitment to attempt reconciliation is like falling in love all over again. It tends to promote a burst of commitment to more kindness and better behavior. However, and since we humans tend to be creatures of habit, most people tend to slip into old habit patterns somewhere within the 4 to 6 month time period (+/-). In other words, while long-term positive change in marital behavior is possible, it tends to be difficult to achieve. Thus, 4 to 6 months is a prudent benchmark for the parties to test if the change each seeks in the marriage has “sticking power.”
My next blog will address the second question, being how long a divorce case can be on pause. Stay tuned.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.