Wife’s claims from first divorce can’t be revived after failed reconciliation

When a couple takes the dramatic step of divorcing, they’re generally doing so for good reason. That’s why most couples who get divorced stay divorced. Still, some couples may decide that the divorce was a mistake and give marriage a second chance. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. But as a recent case from North Carolina indicates, the award that a spouse received or was likely to receive the first time around will not dictate the award the second time around.

The couple in the case, Beverly and Peter Farquhar, divorced in 2004 after 10 years of marriage. A year later they decided to remarry. At the time, they still had pending claims from their divorce and they voluntarily agreed to dismiss these claims.

However, their second marriage ultimately didn’t work out any better than the first one, and after 10 years of remarriage they separated again.

Beverly then went to court demanding to reinstate her claims from the first divorce, seeking a property division, alimony award and attorney fee award based on the couple’s situation a decade earlier.

But a divorce judge said the claims couldn’t go forward because they hadn’t been filed within a year of the couple’s agreement to dismiss them (state law requires the re-filing of such claims within a year). The judge said it doesn’t matter that the couple had remarried before that one-year period had elapsed, because the law’s the law and the clock doesn’t stop.

A court of appeals agreed, stating that it would be unfair to allow a spouse to file alimony and property division claims based on a first marriage, voluntarily dismiss them when reconciling, but still hold onto them as a “sword” to use in a potential second divorce.