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Can my wife, who signed the divorce decree, rescind on an uncontested divorce less than 24 hours before it would be finalized?
August 8, 2011 4:49 PM   Subscribe

My wife decided to contest the divorce less than 24 hours before it would have been finalized. She had already signed all of the decrees.

I understand and accept that responses are not actual advice from an attorney. I understand that by providing me with information or advice, you are not acting as my attorney, nor does providing me with information or advice make you my attorney.

I separated (non-legal) from my wife in September. I filed for divorce 90 days ago. We agreed on an uncontested divorce. I was to go and have the judge sign the decree at 11am tomorrow, but I received an email from an attorney she just retained at 3:30pm today, saying that it was now contested. She did not say my wife's demands, but said my wife did not intend to drag this out and just wanted to make sure the paperwork was done properly. My wife had already signed all of the documents to make the divorce binding and legal. I just needed to present them to the judge tomorrow.

It is frustrating that this is happening at the last minute. I have not responded to the attorney and will not (and have not) contacted my wife about the issue. Is there anything I can do to finalize this tomorrow? Since my wife signed everything and I have less than 24 hours notice? Does this constitute a breach of contract, since my wife agreed to something, then rescinded after I relied on her agreement?

I am in Washington State. I am freaking out, because I do not have the time and especially not the money to deal with this. The attorney wants to meet me at the courthouse tomorrow to serve me. I realize it may not cost me anything, if what the attorney says is true, but I just want this to be done and I think that since my wife agreed to it and signed everything, then she should be held accountable.

Thank you for any help.
posted by mephesta to Law & Government (28 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry to hear about your situation, but you will save money in the long run by getting an attorney now. Do not agree to or sign anything without professional advice. I am not a lawyer, but am going through a divorce right now, so I feel your pain. Once again, once your wife has retained counsel, you really have no choice but to do the same. If she has indeed breached a contract a good attorney should get that taken into account when determining the particulars of the divorce.
posted by TedW at 4:58 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your wife has a lawyer, you need one.

Now.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:16 PM on August 8, 2011 [24 favorites]


TedW is absolutely right. Your wife's lawyer is looking after your wife's interests, not yours. You now know that your wife wants to change the deal - for instance, payment for her lawyer will probably come from your joint property, not her share alone. You need a lawyer to make sure that this isn't some sort of trap and to know what steps to take if you can't agree on a divorce tomorrow. I'm sorry.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I look at spending money on lawyers like spending money on dentists. Sure it sounds expensive now, but if you let it go for six months or a year, it's gonna cost you much, much more.

Anecdotally: Lawyers are people too. If you can't pay immediately, most lawyers I know would agree on some sort of payment arrangement.
posted by Sphinx at 5:21 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone I know who didn't have a lawyer during a divorce when the other spouse had a lawyer ended up screwed.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If she has a lawyer, you need a lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 5:34 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all, you say that this lawye e-mailed you? I think that's strange. What if you didn't check your email and just went ahead with everything tomorrow? Mistakes happen, oops. Maybe they should have called or sent a messenger to be sure you would get the message.
posted by katypickle at 5:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


First of all, you say that this lawye e-mailed you? I think that's strange. What if you didn't check your email and just went ahead with everything tomorrow? Mistakes happen, oops. Maybe they should have called or sent a messenger to be sure you would get the message.

Absolutely, file the papers like you planned. You're not beholden to email pleas from her lawyer.
posted by wrok at 5:47 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mistakes happen, oops. Maybe they should have called or sent a messenger to be sure you would get the message.

I take this to be a suggestion that you pretend you did not know about the letter. That would be bad advice. Lying about this would not necessarily help you and could leave you in a worse position later on. It would also be illegal.

Consider this an example of why you need a lawyer instead of the opinions of AskMe.
posted by Marty Marx at 5:48 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Marty Marx, receiving an email from someone's lawyer nullifies the papers that person already signed?

This isn't about lying, this is about not complying with a request from someone else's legal counsel. Why you would ever comply with the friendly request of legal counsel from someone you're about to become legally entangled with (or unentangled in this case!) is beyond me.

Do not meet her lawyer, do not talk to anyone but an attorney that you hire. Also I can't think of a single reason why you wouldn't file the papers as planned tomorrow.
posted by wrok at 5:53 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't talk to her lawyer until you talk to a lawyer. Her lawyer is not looking out for your best interests. If you think you can't afford a lawyer, you can afford not having a lawyer in this situation even less.
posted by empath at 5:57 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sent you MeMail.
posted by Mr. Justice at 5:58 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I would say that an email isn't legal notice and that if you have all the signed paperwork, go to court tomorrow and attempt to file it. If an attorney shows up, this person must prove that they represent your wife in order to "serve" anything and stop the proceedings.
posted by johnn at 6:08 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


s there anything I can do to finalize this tomorrow? Since my wife signed everything and I have less than 24 hours notice? Does this constitute a breach of contract, since my wife agreed to something, then rescinded after I relied on her agreement?

These are great questions asking for legal advice! The person to answer them is a lawyer.

The attorney wants to meet me at the courthouse tomorrow to serve me.

On the other hand I feel confident in saying that under virtually no circumstances would I meet with someone else's lawyer when I do not have a lawyer of my own present.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on August 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sounds like you need a lawyer.

Just wanted to drop in and say that, whatever has happened, you probably shouldn't blow off an appointment with a judge.
posted by grobstein at 6:42 PM on August 8, 2011


I would also add, don't reply to the email. DO NOT. In some cases acknowledging the message (even if you only reply to agree that you received it, even if you disagree) can open you up to some other action.

Make no admission that you know about the message. At all. Get your own lawyer and ask him/her how to proceed. You have no idea whether her lawyer is just being straightforward or trying some kind of dirty, shyster trick. Don't leave any openings.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:04 PM on August 8, 2011


I think that since my wife agreed to it and signed everything, then she should be held accountable.

If it really is just to "make sure the paperwork was done properly," this is pretty reasonable. This is unfortunate but it sounds like the mistake was in not making sure you both had access to good counsel at the start. This is kind of a responsible thing for her to do.

Nobody is paying attention to the "I do not have the time and especially not the money" (possibly because, quite reasonably, nobody believes the 'time' part); I am going to suggest you do not need an attorney, at least not beyond what a recommended-by-a-trusted-friend one will tell you over the phone or in a brief meeting for free so you can decide whether or not you want to hire that person, immediately. Go ahead as planned unless something more substantial than an e-mail derails things, at which point, yes, you do need a lawyer.

IANAL...but the fact that you have received an e-mail, rather than been served, suggests to me that she has hired somebody rather...mild, and I would be inclined to believe the "make sure the paperwork was done properly." Sleep well tonight and remember this too shall pass.
posted by kmennie at 7:37 PM on August 8, 2011


When I was getting divorced, my ex wanted to meet with my attorney, and my attorney refused, flat-out, no way, no how, would not meet with my ex, to even be in the same room with him, because my ex was representing himself. My attorney was very clear that the lawyer for one side meeting with the client on the other side, without opposing counsel present, was never ever ever a good idea.

My guess is that this lawyer will not be the person meeting you tomorrow. Should you go to the courthouse to meet with this lawyer as proposed, you will likely be met instead by a process server.

Lawyer. You need one now.
posted by ambrosia at 7:38 PM on August 8, 2011


LAWYER. The magic word to say to the lawyer and the judge is "adjournment." Say nothing else. You'll technically be married a few more weeks, but you ass will be covered.
posted by motsque at 7:40 PM on August 8, 2011


Please, oh please, disregard all the well-meaning but potentially horrific advice that speculates that "maybe if you just went through and pretended you didn't see the e-mail, you'd be fine." I don't care that speculation is what you asked for. You shouldn't listen to it. You need a lawyer, and you put yourself in much greater trouble by making decisions without one when your wife (apparently) now has one.
posted by Happydaz at 8:17 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Her lawyer has stated that she intends to serve you with papers at the courthouse tomorrow. Your consent doesn't matter when it comes to getting served - you can't avoid that. All the server needs is confirmation of your identity which will happen in the courtroom if not sooner. Also, her lawyer will likely show up to ensure nothing is finalized.

You need a lawyer immediately. Don't blow off the judge but do understand you won't be divorced tomorrow. If you don't have a lawyer retained before your appointment, go anyway, endure the process service and don't say a word until you do have a lawyer.
posted by SakuraK at 9:19 PM on August 8, 2011


IANAL If, on the off chance you get no legal communication, you could go to court and say "Your honor, I received email from an attorney stating that the attorney represents my wife and that they wish to delay the proceedings. " The judge is likely to respond with an adjournment, but maybe the attorney won't show up with paperwork and the judge will finalize. Just be honest and straighforward. After the adjournment, you're gonna have to lawyer up. Sorry.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 PM on August 8, 2011


"Your honor, a few hours ago I received email from an attorney stating that the attorney from a total stranger who claimed to be an attorney and claimed that she represents my wife and that they wish to delay the proceedings." <-- would give a judge a more accurate understanding, if you choose to bring it up
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:26 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a lawyer. Mightn't this very Ask post constitute evidence that he received the email? I wouldn't lie about it. Joining the chorus, get a lawyer, stat!
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:13 AM on August 9, 2011


Talk to your wife. Problems like this are not like fine wine. They don't get better with time.

Ask her what she's trying to do. Once you've spoken to her, then get an attorney.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:54 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's 11 am on the east coast, any follow up, OP ?
posted by k5.user at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2011


So what happened?
posted by 14580 at 4:43 AM on August 10, 2011


Sorry, no answer, just wanted to wish you best of luck.
posted by IZ at 5:00 AM on August 10, 2011


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