On October 17, 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Jaroh v. Jaroh. After the parties signed a settlement agreement at mediation. However, before the court entered the Judgment of Divorce, the wife filed a motion to set aside the settlement agreement, claiming the terms were not fair, duress and fraud. A case of buyer’s remorse.
In Michigan settlements that are freely, voluntarily and understandingly entered are enforceable even if they are unfair. In the Jaroh case, the parties acquired several pieces of property during the marriage. During settlement negotiations, the parties reached an agreement regarding the values of the various properties and divided the properties accordingly at mediation with a settlement agreement.
However, when the husband moved to enforce the settlement agreement the wife refused to sign the divorce judgment, arguing that the terms were unconscionable. The trial court entered the divorce judgment and the wife appealed.
The wife argued that she signed the settlement agreement under duress. Simply, she signed the settlement agreement against her will or better judgment. She also argued that defendant lied about the values of the real estate and amount of debt. Simply, she argued her husband committed fraud.
The Court of Appeals upheld the entry of the divorce judgment and denied wife’s appeal because the wife failed to establish that she was illegally compelled or coerced to sign the divorce judgment. The wife argued that the length of the mediation (9 hours), lack of food or snacks (to which evidence was presented that snacks were made available) and the fact that the parties were separated during the negotiations evidenced duress. Simply, there was not enough evidence to support her claims.
The key learning in the Jorah case, is understanding the notion that it is difficult to set aside a signed settlement agreement. Therefore, do not sign a settlement agreement unless you really want to settle.
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By: Daniel Findling
Michigan divorce settlement agreement – When can you change your mind?