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
One thought on “Michigan divorce settlement agreement – When can you change your mind?”
I was divorced in 1999. I was married in 1978 of April 29th. During our two and a half yrs. of my divorce I was depressed, anxiety ridden and just very upset. I depended on my lawyer to do the work for me. I also had some in put on what I was going through or had gone through. Without my knowledge my lawyer had Alzhiemers which was a problem in my divorce. The friend of court offered me lifetime life time alimony. The day of the divorce as I was walking in the court room my husband squeezed in the door way and told me “If you take life time alimony…what ever it takes Deb you will not get lifetime alimony. As I sat during the divorce proceedings started I told my lawyer, that Dennis threatened my life but my lawyer ignored me. During my marriage Dennis Adair stalked me and threw me across the room when he already had a PPO order against him. Nothing was done about this. During the divorce I cried with my face in my hands and just agreed to everything my ex wanted as I turned down life time alimony thinking I would rather be alive and broke then what he would do to me if I had taken it. The judge kept questioning me as to why I was agreeing. Then he asked if I wanted a divorce and I shook my head yes. I received alimony for 8 yrs. and was to receive a third of his bonus from his family printing company….but that only happened twice in the eight years. Business was good during this time. Since Dennis was not to be trusted the judge had my alimony. I suffer from severe fibromyalgia and arthritis , which keeps me from working I only receive $721.00. I have moved several times since the condo I bought from the sale of my home went into foreclosure which cost me 100,000.00. So I need to know under the circumstances can I open my divorce and try to receive alimony. I am homeless after living with a six figure marriage. I was a devoted wife and mother. I took great care of my family. We separated with him living in the other bedroom during six months before he left our home. Please help me so I can live in my own home. On one occasion he said we didn’t get a bonus when he bought a boat from the boat show. Thank you for taking the time reading my letter. Sincerely, Deborah J. Adair