Given the heavy stakes involved, spouses often walk away from a divorce settlement with a feeling on dissatisfaction. Depending on the circumstances, one or both spouses can feel slighted, mistreated or even abused. Divorce settlements, just like divorce decrees, are not necessarily set in stone; meaning that settlements can be overturned in certain situations. In this post, we will discuss the conditions under which it may be possible for a person to challenge and alter a divorce settlement here in Colorado.
Challenging a Private Settlement
The terms of a divorce can be litigated through the courts, or they can be negotiated privately between the parties. Private negotiations can take place independently, involving only the parties of the divorce, or they can be facilitated with a mediator. No matter the route, privately developed agreements can be just as enforceable as orders issued by the court in litigation. In some cases, however, either party may wish to challenge the settlement agreement after it has been submitted to the court and signed by a judge. There might be numerous reasons for this: perhaps one party is unhappy with the property division aspects of the settlement, or the spousal support award. Whatever the reason, challenging a settlement is possible, but it can be difficult depending on the circumstances.
The difficulty involved is partly a function of the specific complaint brought forth by the former spouse. If, for instance, the former spouse complains about the property division – and this is very often a source of complaint – challenging the settlement will be relatively difficult. The reason for this is because the complainant will need to cite one of several accepted reasons for the challenge. Typically, the former spouse will need to show that one of the following things exists:
(1) fraud, which means that the spouse was deceived about a material element of the settlement, or
(2) duress or coercion, which means that the spouse only agreed to the terms because of undue pressure or influence, or
(3) mistakes during negotiation, which means that either party made a mistake about an essential aspect of the settlement, or
(4) the terms of the settlement would necessarily result in a state of gross inequity.
You can see that this doesn’t leave too much room for a challenge. A former spouse will not be able to complain simply because he or she doesn’t like the results of the settlement. There needs to be a more compelling reason behind the complaint, and this generally means one of the above reasons needs to be cited.
Challenging a child custody arrangement is comparatively easier, as these arrangements are often modified. In dealing with proposed modifications, however, readers should be aware that Colorado courts will always defer to the “best interests of the child” standard, and so any proposed modifications will be turned down if they fail to harmonize with that principle.
In any case, challenging a settlement on any basis will require the filing of documentation order to begin the process. So, for instance, to modify child custody, a former spouse will need to file a formal motion to modify the existing order.
Appealing a Court-Issued Divorce Order
As mentioned, spouses can also appeal a divorce order issued by the court. In the future, we may come back and discuss the appellate process in more detail, but for now we can state that the probability of overturning a judgment on appeal is quite low. Part of the reason for this is because appellate courts don’t accept new evidence or testimony when they review judgments, they primarily only review the judgment to determine if any obvious errors or mistakes were made.
Contact the Drake Law Firm for More Information
Hopefully, this gives readers a sense of how challenges to divorce settlements work here in Colorado. If you’d like more information, contact the Drake Law Firm, P.C. today by calling 303-261-8111.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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Golden, CO 80401