Can a settlement agreement be changed or undone after several years?

Asked about 4 years ago - Atlanta, GA

Husband and wife borrow $40,000 from the wife’s parents to put a down payment on a house. In the divorce papers, the wife gets the house and all equity, etc.. Both husband and wife are required to pay $20,000 back to the wife’s mother (at $200 a month).

Marital debt (credit card debt) was divided and husband had to pay back twice what the wife had to. After the divorce, husband filed for bankruptcy. The $20,000 could not be included in the bankruptcy because it was part of a settlement agreement.

The husband did not have an attorney during the divorce, the wife did.

Is there anything that can be done to undo this unfair agreement?

If not, what happens if the husband stops paying? Can they make the husband pay all of it back at once? If they garnish wages, what happens if the husband doesn't have a job?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Melanie Ann Brubaker

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . I agree with the response you were given and I wanted to build on it. If the ex-husband stops paying, the ex-wife could ask the court to hold the ex-husband in contempt of the order which incorporated the settlement agreement. As to how the money is paid to the ex-wife is very fact specific and unemployment of the ex-husband could possibly be factored into the rate and amounts of payment.

    There might be some preemptory steps the ex-husband could take to prevent a contempt action being filed against him. I recommend that you sit down with an attorney and discuss your situation. My law firm, Smith Bivek Law Group, provides a free legal consultation in a private and confidential environment.

    Thank-you, Melanie Brubaker

  2. Glen Edward Ashman

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . I note that you asked the same question on another site and the answer there is correct (and the same as the answers here).

    You can't redo the settlement agreement. When someone makes the costly mistake of not using a lawyer in a divorce you don't get a "re-do."

    She could file a contempt and even have him jailed if he fails to comply, or she can seize his assets and income, or do other things to him.

  3. Christopher T. Anderson

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . Your question presumes the agreement was unfair ... but I am not sure why. Both parties agreed to it, it was not imposed on them. You don't mention any coercion or other circumstances to indicate that the agreement was not entered into with a full and complete understanding, and meeting of the minds.

    It is highly unlikely that equitable distribution of property, agreed upon and incorporated into a court order, can later be modified. There may be other ways to skin this cat, however, which can be developed by an attorney with a full understanding of all the facts and circumstances. Sounds like it may be worth a consultation, which many firms, including mine, do free.

  4. Andrew Daniel Myers

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Generally speaking, courts allow settlement agreements as full and final resolution of the issues before them. The parties are generally asked if they fully understand the agreement and if they signed the agreement voluntarily and knowingly. Only after the court is satisfied, is a final order entered based on the agreement. In view of all of these circumstances, it would be an extraordinary case in which a final agreement would be overturned.

    This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided in an office consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law in which your concern lies.

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