A marital settlement agreement can be a great tool for divorcing spouses. These agreements let the spouses decide largely for themselves how their children will be cared for, how their property will be divided, and how issues like spousal support will be handled. It is important, however, for a divorcing spouse negotiating a settlement agreement to know what he or she is agreeing to do. As California’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained, you can’t get out of a settlement agreement later down the road simply because you’ve changed your mind.
Husband and Wife separated in 2011, following some 14 years of marriage in which the couple had at least one child. Wife was working as a financial advisor at the time, while Husband was unemployed. They went through mediation and reached an agreement that Wife would get full custody of the child, and Husband would not be required to pay child support. In addition, Wife agreed to pay Husband a lump sum of $34,000 from a community property bank account in exchange for his pledge not to seek monthly spousal support. A trial judge later signed an order adopting the agreement.
Husband went back to court about a year later and told a judge he’d had a change of heart. He asked the judge to scrap the order, arguing that the agreement was unfair and one-sided. Husband explained that Wife handled the couple’s finances during the course of the marriage. He also said she concealed assets from him during the settlement discussions. The court agreed to reconsider the spousal support issue but otherwise said it would not revisit the agreement and order.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Second District said Husband didn’t point to specific information that Wife failed to disclose nor show how any such failure may have worked against him in the settlement negotiation process. Although Wife didn’t initially disclose the value of her pension, for example, the appeals court said she later provided documentation detailing the pension investments and total amount. The Court also said Husband didn’t provide any evidence to dispute Wife’s assertion that the couple did not otherwise own any stocks or bonds at the time of their divorce.
Additionally, the Court said Wife properly disclosed the existence of a Morgan Stanley bank account and provided a detailed transaction history. “[Husband] complained [Wife] failed to provide all bank account statements, but did not identify any overlooked accounts,” the Court said. “[Husband] was fully informed of [Wife]’s income for the disputed period and failed to establish prejudice.”
If you’re considering divorce or are grappling with spousal support and other issues in California, contact San Jose spousal support lawyer John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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