In California divorce cases, once you figure out and agree to a division and distribution of marital property that has been approved and finalized by the court, it cannot generally be changed. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you get it right the first time. This is an issue that you won’t want to rush just to get the painful process of divorce over with. When rushed, when insufficiently investigated and reviewed, when either spouse does not pay full attention or understand the legal requirements or consequences, an unfair settlement can inadvertently be turned into a court order that is set in legal stone.
Marital Property Settlements Can Be Changed under Certain Circumstances
However, under limited circumstances, you may be able to get a marital property settlement amended by the court after the fact. This falls under California Code of Civil Procedure 473(b) that delineates the circumstances for such a modification based on “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” California Family Code Section 2122 goes on to further list the specific circumstances that would allow a court to modify your property settlement.
These circumstances include the following:
- “Actual fraud” wherein you as the defrauded party were “kept in ignorance or in some manner” were “fraudulently prevented from fully participating in the proceeding.” You must bring your complaint of the fraud to the court within one year after discovering it.
- “Perjury,” in which misinformation was given to the court regarding financial disclosure or the statement of income and expenses used to determine the settlement. You must also bring a complaint to the court within a year of discovering it.
- “Duress,” wherein your complaint of duress must be brought to the court’s attention within two years of the date the settlement was rendered.
- “Mental incapacity,” giving you two years to file your complaint after the settlement was rendered.
- Either a “mutual or unilateral mistake” was made; this complaint must be brought to the court within a year of the settlement decision.
- One or both parties failed to fully comply with financial disclosure requirements per California law; a complaint of this nature must also be filed with the court within a year after discovering it.
It should also be noted that factors that would only affect property division settlements in a minor way will not be entertained by the courts. Only those factors on the above list of circumstances that affected the settlement in a major way would be considered for a settlement modification.
What Does It All Mean?
The above information means that if you were somehow tricked into agreeing to a property division settlement that you now know was unfair or unjust in a significant way, you may have legal recourse. However, you will be subject to a statute of limitations that is limited to either a year or two years, depending on the circumstances. That means you will have to take action to rectify the situation through the courts in a timely manner.
At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, our legal team of outstanding family law attorneys are well-versed in California law and procedure on this matter. With a Certified Family Law Specialist onboard and a team that has handled thousands of cases, we are poised to provide you with the most professional, highest trained, and extensively experienced representation available in Riverside County to seek a modification of your property settlement or other court order.