Mistakes Happen: How the Law Treats Mistakes in Marital Settlement Agreements
A divorce settlement agreement is final—right? In the majority of cases, this is true. When you agree to specific terms in your divorce settlement, you are legally required to abide by those terms, regardless of whether or not you like them. However, there are times when you can actually motion the court to change a settlement agreement.
While these situations are few and far between, it’s worth discussing with your attorney. The Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure outline situations in which one can ask for relief from a judgment or order. If you’re still looking for assistance with your divorce, it’s time to talk to the team at Kirk Drennan Law. Call us at 205-953-1424 to set up a consultation now.
Clerical mistakes do happen in the courtroom, although they are fairly rare. These are things that are clearly mistyped or mis-entered, for example, an order for $11,000 per month in child support when $1,100 per month is what was actually ordered. When this happens, the court may move to correct the error itself or either party in the case may request for it to be fixed.
When Mistakes Occur
Section (b) of the rules outlines other circumstances under which you may seek relief from a civil judgment or order. In the first section, you’ll find that a party can request relief if there was a mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
In any of these circumstances, you’ll need to be able to prove that a mistake occurred. Otherwise, the court is likely to assume that the order is correct and that you may simply regret the terms of your agreement. Other sections cover judgments that are void, judgments that have already been satisfied, and “any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.”
That last section is key—it gives broad freedom to the court to grant relief from a settlement agreement for any reason that it considers justified. Even if you aren’t certain whether or not the mistake in your agreement fits in any of these categories, it’s worth talking to your attorney about your options.
Newly Discovered Evidence or Fraud
Another important section of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure covers orders that came about because of fraud and situations in which newly discovered evidence came to light. Section (3) notes that someone may be granted relief from an order if fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct of an adverse party was responsible for the order.
The prior section indicates that relief from an order may be granted if there is newly discovered evidence that could not have reasonably been discovered in time to request a new trial. There are several applicable situations that may be relevant to family law.
Regarding fraud, consider a marriage between a native English speaker and someone who entered the country on a marriage visa. The immigrant spouse is still learning English, and their ex-partner told them they needed to sign off on the paperwork in front of them in order to get a new house. It wasn’t until the divorce was finalized that the immigrant spouse realized that they were now legally divorced, at risk of deportation, and left without financial support. This would likely be considered fraud on the part of the American spouse.
Another situation involves hidden assets. Divorce attorneys are expected to take reasonable steps and do their due diligence when it comes to uncovering hidden assets, but new ways of hiding and transferring assets are always being found. If it comes out that your spouse hid assets in a way that would have greatly affected your divorce settlement, you may be able to request relief.
Your Next Steps
This is a complicated area of law, and it depends entirely on the details of each unique situation. Before proceeding any further, you must reach out to your divorce attorney.
Reach Out to Kirk Drennan Law Now
Whether you need help with your divorce settlement or you’re just beginning the divorce process, having the right attorney by your side can help. Schedule a consultation with Kirk Drennan Law by calling us at 205-953-1424 or filling out our online contact form.
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