Can you escape an unfair divorce settlement?
I signed an unfair divorce settlement. Can I get out of it? I’m Tulsa Attorney James Wirth. That is the question that we have. Divorce agreements and settlements, that could be a mediation agreement, it could just be a settlement conference agreement, some sort of agreement that you’ve made with your spouse to complete a divorce proceeding, divide the assets, custody, visitation, child support, all of those types of things.
So you’ve got that agreement that’s made, you’ve signed it, and now you’re having second thoughts. Can you get out of it? And the first question I’m gonna ask you is, was it signed by the court as an order of the court? Because that is gonna be the foundational thing.
The Court’s Role in Divorce Settlement Agreements
Now generally, in a typical civil case, if you reach an agreement, it’s drafted up and it’s signed, that is a contract, and it’s an enforceable contract, and the court will enforce it. But when we’re talking about divorce, that’s a domestic case. That is an equitable consideration the court takes.
Because what the law provides in Title, oh, one moment, Title 43, Section 121, it notes that, as to such property, whether real or personal, which has been acquired by the parties jointly during the marriage, whether the title thereto be in, either in both or one, the court shall, subject to valid antinuptial contract in writing, make such division between the parties as may appear just and reasonable, by division of the property in kind, by settling, all those things.
So long story short, the main part of this is that the court shall divide the property as may appear just and reasonable. And the only exception that it has is an antinuptial agreement, and that is a prenup. So if you have an agreement before you get married, then according to this, that could be an enforceable one. But if you have the agreement after you’re married, or it’s during the divorce proceeding, this has been interpreted as meaning that it still has to be just and reasonable in order for the court to approve it.
The Court’s Approval and Fairness of Settlement Agreements
And there is a court case on that that is more specific than the statute. There’s a couple of them, but one that I wanted to quote from is Adams v. Adams, 2000, okay, Civ App 87 in paragraph five. And it notes, obviously the parties to a divorce case may attempt to negotiate a settlement of their affairs. If they do that, reach a mutual agreement, and present it to the court, its terms and conditions may be considered by the court. However, such an agreement is not binding on the court. Goes on to say that the court, in this case in 1980, held that a settlement agreement is not enforceable absent its approval by the court. It is, and it shall not be approved unless it’s fair, just, and reasonable.
So if you have a settlement agreement signed by the parties, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically enforceable. The court, by law, is required to review it and determine whether it is fair, just, and reasonable or not. And if it is, then the court enters it, it becomes an order of the court, and it’s a done deal. If it’s not, though, then it’s basically thrown out, and you can work on another agreement, or the case can go forward to trial, where the court can make the determination.
Seeking Legal Advice for Your Specific Circumstances
But if you’ve got, whether it’s a mediation agreement, settlement agreement, signed by the parties, if it’s not signed by the judge, it’s not a done deal yet. The person that’s pushing it forward still has to prove that it’s reasonable and just in order to get the judge’s signature on it. So if you’re dealing with that scenario, you may be able to get out of that agreement if it truly is an unfair agreement.
So if you’ve got questions about your specific circumstances, though, what may be fair and not fair, you’re probably gonna wanna talk to an attorney privately and confidentially to get advice on that. To get that scheduled with an Oklahoma divorce lawyer at my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.