Does a Divorce Petition or Complaint Ever Expire?

A question that sometimes arises before divorce proceedings start is whether a divorce petition or complaint can expire if not acted upon promptly. This question is particularly pertinent for individuals who may have initiated the process but then decided to pause for various reasons.

Does a divorce petition expire?

A divorce petition, also known as a complaint for divorce, is a legal document that initiates the divorce process. It is typically filed by the spouse seeking a dissolution of marriage, known as the petitioner. The other person is typically known as the respondent or defendant.

The petition outlines the grounds for divorce, details about the marriage (such as children, assets, and debts), and the desired terms of the divorce (such as child custody and division of marital property).

There are various reasons why someone might wonder if their petition has expired. For instance, they may have filed the petition with the intention to divorce but then failed to take further action due to personal circumstances, a change in the relationship, or simply a change of heart.

In most jurisdictions, a divorce petition does not automatically expire. However, the court may dismiss the case if there is no activity for a certain period, typically around one year. This is done to keep the court docket clear of inactive cases. If you wish to proceed with the divorce after your case has been dismissed, you generally need to file a new petition.

It's important to note that divorce laws and the rules regarding the dismissal of inactive cases can vary from state to state. Some states may require a shorter or longer period of inactivity before a case is dismissed. 

Therefore, it's advisable to consult a divorce attorney or legal expert to understand the specific laws applicable in your jurisdiction.

Helpful: How to File a Response to a Petition for Divorce

What if I petitioned a long time ago and now want to act on the divorce?

If you previously filed a divorce petition and now wish to proceed with the divorce, the first step is to check the status of your case. This can be done with the court clerk’s office. If your case has not been dismissed, you can likely pick up where you left off. If your case has been dismissed, you will likely need to file a new petition.

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How can I retract my divorce petition?

If you have filed a divorce petition and now wish to retract it, you will generally need to file a motion to dismiss. The process for this varies by state, so it's best to consult with a local attorney.

Can I refile for divorce if my case was dismissed due to inactivity?

Yes, if your divorce case was dismissed due to inactivity, you can typically refile for divorce. However, you would usually need to start the process from the beginning, including paying any applicable filing fees.

If you need help with anything related to your divorce, from filing the petition for dissolution of marriage to finding the right divorce forms to understanding how a counter-petition works, we’ve got your back. At Hello Divorce, we specialize in helping people make it through their divorce process with as little stress and expense as possible. Schedule a free 15-minute informational call with us to learn more.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.