Michigan divorce settlement agreement: – When can you change your mind?
Careful consideration should be taken before entering into a settlement agreement. As once a settlement agreement is reached you usually cannot disavow it merely because you have a change of heart. Courts must uphold divorce property settlements reached through negotiation and agreement of the parties because modifications of property settlements in divorce judgments are disfavored. The leading cases on this point are: Metro Life Ins. Co. v. Goolsby, 168 Mich App 126 (1987) and Baker v. Baker , 268 Mich App 578 (2005).
So when can you set aside a property settlement?
A settlement agreement can be set aside under very limited circumstances. These limited circumstances are in cases of fraud, duress, mutual mistake or severe stress. If a party is prevented from understanding in a reasonable manner the nature and effect of the settlement a case can be made to set the settlement agreement aside. The leading case on point is Keiser v. Keiser, 182 Mich App 268 (1999).
However, somethings are easier said than done. To overturn a settlement agreement based on fraud, you must prove that a false statement relating to a past or existing fact was made by your spouse and relied upon by you, preventing you from understanding the marital estate. A leading fraud case is Cummins v. Robinson Twp. 284, Mich App 677 (2009).
Consider the recent case of Vittiglio v. Virttiglio, July 31, 2012 (LC No. 774722-DO), Cynthia Vittglio argued that her husband threatened to kill her on more than one occasion in the past. Cynthia Vittglio argued that these threats amounted to duress and/or severe stress as a basis to set aside the settlement agreement. The court of appeals ruled that because “… the settlement agreement was reached through mediation, during which the plaintiff was represented by counsel . . .” the settlement agreement would be upheld, notwithstanding the alleged death threats.
The best time for reflection is before you enter into a settlement agreement. Do not sign are record a settlement agreement unless you are willing to be bound by the agreement. Chances are, the settlement agreement you enter into will be final and non-modifiable.
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By: Daniel Findling