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Mistakes Happen: How the Law Treats Mistakes in Marital Settlement Agreements

Mistakes in Divorce Settlements

You and your ex-spouse finally have a finished marital settlement agreement and your divorce is finalized. This is a massive source of relief for most people, especially those who spent months negotiating the nitty-gritty details of the agreement. What happens when a wrench gets thrown into your marital settlement agreement and a mistake is discovered?

The moment you find a mistake in your marital settlement agreement, it is crucial to connect with a divorce attorney. Call John H. Ruby & Associates at 502-373-8044 to set up a time to talk to our team of Louisville divorce lawyers now.

Taking Care with Your Marital Settlement Agreement

Of course, the best way to avoid time-consuming and inconvenient mistakes is to take extra care with your marital settlement agreement from the very beginning. This is one reason to be picky about your choice of attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer will know common sources of errors and ways to double- and triple-check for errors before the documents ever reach the court.

Unconscionable Agreements

To start, it’s important to recognize that the court will not accept an unconscionable agreement. If an agreement is later found to be unconscionable because of new circumstances or evidence, the court may step in. What does the court consider unconscionable? Essentially, anything that is manifestly inequitable and unfair. 

Consider, for example, a divorce involving a low-earning spouse and a high-earning spouse. The court may find it unconscionable for the lower-earning spouse to take no child support or alimony and a small share of the marital property while also taking primary custody of the children. This is grossly unfair in favor of the high-earning party and the court would not enforce it.

Typographical Errors

Typographical errors happen, which is especially frustrating when you’re dealing with legal documents. The Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60.01 addresses this. A clerical mistake in an order arising from oversight or omission can be corrected by the court without a new hearing. Errors may be fixed when the court discovers the error or when either party moves to have it changed. 

Consider, for example, a couple with two children. Spouse A takes primary custody of the children, and Spouse B agrees to pay $1,000 per month in child support. They earn $50,000 per year. A typographical error states that Spouse B will pay $10,000 per month in child support. This is an obvious error and can be corrected without expensive legal motions.

Mistakes Caused by Fraud or Newly Discovered Evidence

Civil Rule 60.02 relates to relief from motions due to the discovery of new evidence, perjury, fraud, falsified evidence, and similar issues. This covers a wide range of marital settlement agreement mistakes. 

For example, a case was reopened because a divorcing couple—involving two parties without attorneys—divided their property based on each spouse’s valuing of their assets. The husband intentionally and knowingly undervalued his assets to get a more beneficial distribution. This rule may also come into play when one spouse intentionally hides assets to avoid them being split up during the division of assets.

In one especially alarming case that allowed the wife to reopen their divorce case, her former husband’s behavior was tantamount to fraud. Their separation agreement gave him all of the real estate, two trucks, and the household furnishings. It granted the wife one car, custody of the pair’s son, and an $800 debt. 

The agreement also had the wife waive claims to alimony and child support, as well as waive all further notice and service of process. This kept her from participating in the divorce. The husband then told her he had dropped the divorce. As a result, she was kept from challenging the terms of the agreement until the judgment was entered.

Note that if you have been misled during your divorce proceedings and are seeking to reopen the division of assets or another aspect of your divorce, the burden of proof is on you. The court considers the marital settlement agreement to be a settled matter; for them to reopen it, you must be able to back up your claims with evidence.

Issues With Your Marital Settlement Agreement? Contact John H. Ruby & Associates

If you think you’ve been defrauded in your divorce, let us help you fight for justice. Reach out to our team of Louisville family law attorneys online or at 502-373-8044 to schedule a consultation.