When property is divided in a Judgment of Divorce is typically final and non-modifiable. However, a party can petition the court for relief from a Judgment of Divorce in certain instances.
Michigan Court Rule 2.612 provides the specific grounds for relief from a Judgment of Divorce.
Relief from a Judgment of Divorce for a clerical mistake.
MCR 2.612(A)(1) grants the court authority to fix clerical mistakes in a Judgment of Divorce arising from an oversight or omission. The court can fix the clerical mistake on its own initiative or at the request of a party.
Grounds for relief from a Judgment of Divorce.
Pursuant to 2.612(C)(1), at the request of a party, on just terms, the court may relieve a party from a Judgment of Divorce on the following grounds:
(a) Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(b) Newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered timely;
(c) Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of the other party;
A Motion for relief from a Judgment of Divorce for items (a), (b) and (c) must be filed within 1 year after the Judgment of Divorce was finalized. If more than one year has elapsed the trial court has discretion to grant relief under MCR 2.612(C)(1)(f) which is authorizes a court to modify a Judgment of Divorce for “any other reason justifying relief.” However, I could not find a single case which successfully used this ‘catch all’ provision in granting relief from a Judgment of Divorce.
The party requesting relief from Judgment must prove an applicable ground by clear and convincing evidence
O April 29, 2021, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Burnham v. Burnham, II which addressed a motion for relief from Judgment. In the Burnham case, the parties entered into a Consent Judgment of Divorce in October of 2019 which divided husbands single pension plan. Shortly thereafter, wife was “visibly upset” when she learned that her ex husband had two additional pension plans he failed to disclose. Wife filed a motion for relief from the Judgment of Divorce alleging fraud pursuant to MCR 2.612(C)(1)(c). The trial court denied wife’s request premised on the notion that the original Consent Judgment of Divorce was negotiated awarding husband the additional pensions in exchange for other assets awarded to the wife. The trial court relied on testimony that the wife handled the parties finances and should have known of the other pensions.after learning that wife handled the parties finances noting:
The overwhelming discussions and common knowledge of Defendant’s retirement benefits” established that defendant did not fraudulently conceal his pensions. Instead, on the basis of the testimony, “it seems like a reasonable conclusion that the Defendant would reasonably conclude and believe that the Plaintiff was aware of all of the Defendant’s retirement benefits.
The key learning is that relief from a Judgment of Divorce is possible if filed within one year and most Judgments of Divorce are final and non-modifiable. However, when the circumstances are just, a court may grant relief from a Judgment of Divorce.
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