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Vacating or Reopening a Divorce Decree

Typically, the Court’s involvement in a couple’s divorce ends upon the entry of a Divorce Decree. In some cases, however, one of the parties may wish to vacate the Divorce Decree or to reopen the divorce in order to seek various types of relief.

The grounds for vacating a divorce decree or reopening a divorce case are very specific, and typically, very strictly interpreted by the Court. Grounds include as follows:

  1. Fraud: Fraud includes intrinsic fraud (such as perjury or false testimony by one of the parties) and extrinsic fraud (fraud by an individual involved in the proceeding that precludes a fair hearing or presentation of one side of the case);
  2. New information: New information is information which is discovered after the Divorce Decree was entered which would affect the validity of the decree;
  3. Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter: Lack of jurisdiction means that the Court that entered the Divorce Decree lacked the jurisdiction to hear that type of case at the time that the Decree was entered; and
  4. Fatal defect: A fatal defect apparent upon the face of the record refers to a defect that is obvious from the record, such as a failure to file necessary paperwork to obtain the divorce, the failure to abide by necessary deadlines, and other defects that are apparent simply by reviewing the Court’s record of the divorce matter.

A party wishing to vacate, strike, or reopen a Divorce Decree must file a motion with the Court within 30 days of the date of entry of the Decree. However, if a party is arguing that the decree is void due to extrinsic fraud, the Court’s lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or a fatal defect apparent upon the face of the record, the party may file a motion to vacate, strike, or reopen the decree within five years after entry of the final decree.

If a party is successful in vacating, striking, or reopening a Divorce Decree, that party may make additional claims, such as equitable distribution or alimony.

If you are interested in discussing your unique divorce matter in more detail with one of our attorneys, contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.