Can a Divorce Resettlement Be Reopened?
Reopening a divorce settlement is generally not something allowed under Georgia law, but there are exceptions to the rule. Your settlement can be reopened but only in certain cases and under certain conditions. If you feel your settlement is unfair and should be changed or there are extenuating circumstances in your case, reaching out to an attorney may be the right thing to do. Here is what to consider before asking to reopen your case.
How to Reopen a Georgia Divorce Settlement
The first thing to consider is whether you are attempting to reopen a divorce settlement before or after a final judgment has been entered. If you file a request before a final judgment, assuming there has been a change in circumstances since the agreement was reached, the likelihood of a successful challenge is better. Even if the request is filed after a final judgment has been entered, a court has the inherent power to revise, correct, revoke, modify, or vacate the judgment, even on its own motion within the same term of the court, which is generally a very short timeframe.
If all else fails, you can always seek a modification of the final judgment that incorporates the settlement based on a change in circumstances as it relates to things subject to future modification. You will need to make your case to the court and show a reason why the judgment should be set aside or if there has been a substantial change in circumstances to change a provision. The court will decide whether it has a basis to set aside the judgment or limit the relief to modification. A divorce settlement is not something you can continue negotiating. Once it is finalized, the process is finished, and the parties must follow the requirements and restrictions of the outcome in most circumstances.
Why a Divorce Settlement Would be Reopened
Sometimes, there are clear and compelling reasons to reopen a Georgia divorce settlement. But Georgia law does not define what “clear and compelling” means. That can make it difficult to prove whether something fits that definition. Some cases may seem obvious. But there will be plenty of cases that may or may not be compelling, and that is why it is important to retain a professional attorney to help you understand the law and argue your claim effectively.
Georgia law states that a divorce settlement may be set aside if “the judgment was obtained as the result of fraud, accident, or mistake or the acts of the adverse party unmixed with the negligence or fault of the movant. . . .” In other words, if the person trying to reopen the settlement was defrauded, there was an accidental omission or addition, or if a mistake was made and you did not contribute to the mistake, Georgia law allows you three years to file a motion to set aside the judgment. There are other timelines involved given the basis of setting aside the judgment, but an experienced attorney can advise you further. If the petition to reopen the settlement succeeds, the entire settlement will be set aside and anything that person received will have to be returned until the divorce is reconsidered and a new judgment made and finalized.
What to Do If You Are Considering Reopening a Divorce Settlement
If you are in Georgia and want to reopen a divorce settlement, you will need to have a qualified attorney on your side. That gives you the ability and opportunity to work with a professional who can help. If you are asking yourself if your divorce settlement can be reopened and feel you have a compelling case, talk to an attorney at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor today. Remember that most challenges to agreements are extremely time-sensitive, so you must contact an attorney immediately to learn your rights and know if you are within an appropriate time frame to challenge your agreement.
We can work with the facts of your case to see if there is an option to reopen it. If there is, our legal professionals will work toward a resolution for you. Then you can have peace of mind, knowing that you have done all you can to protect your interests in your divorce settlement case. We are here to help.