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I Can See Clearly Now

Are you looking to modify the terms of your divorce Settlement Agreement now that the rain is gone? It may not be as easy as you think. While certain terms of a Settlement Agreement, such as custody/parenting time, child support and alimony (in some cases) may be modifiable by the Court upon certain showings, such as a significant change in circumstances, it is difficult to fully “get out” of your Settlement Agreement. The Court will not vacate a Settlement Agreement, simply because you have changed your mind. Nevertheless, there are certain instances when a Court will consider vacating a Settlement Agreement. For example, if the party seeking to vacate the Settlement Agreement is able to successfully prove that the Agreement was the product of fraud or overreaching by the other party, or that there was coercion or duress, a Court may be willing to vacate the Settlement Agreement. One party cannot threaten another or hold a gun to another party’s head (literally or figuratively) in order to elicit a settlement. However, it is only in those rare cases that a Court will consider vacating a Settlement Agreement and allow the aggrieved party some relief. Because it is so difficult to vacate the terms of a Settlement Agreement, it is important to carefully consider the terms of any agreement and seek legal advice prior to signing it. The Court will not allow you to enter into an Agreement, and then wake up the next morning and say “I’ve changed my mind, let’s renegotiate” — even if the terms of the Agreement that you willingly signed are not completely fair. If you enter into a Settlement Agreement willingly, knowingly and voluntarily without fraud, threat, coercion or duress, the terms of your Agreement will be enforceable. For this reason, it is critically important to have an experienced family law attorney at your side during the process of negotiating your divorce settlement. If you wait to retain an attorney after the Settlement Agreement is already signed, it is often far too late. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.