11 Oct 17

Can we change the settlement agreement if we didn’t use a lawyer?

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When you and your spouse come to a settlement agreement on your divorce and submit it to the court, it’s a legally binding contract that you both must follow. However, there are ways you can change it, especially if both of you are fine with the changes. If you’ve decided you want to change a settlement agreement, here is what you need to know.

The Settlement Agreement Isn’t Finalized Until a Judge Signs the Divorce Decree

Most divorces end with settlement agreements instead of the court making a ruling on support and how to divide assets. It’s easier for everyone this way, as it gives couples more control of the situation. The court only decides things if the couple can’t come to a settlement agreement or the agreement they come to is very unbalanced in favor of one party.

Couples can choose to handle the divorce process on their own or hire their own divorce lawyers. It’s almost always better for each spouse to hire a divorce lawyer to represent them, especially to avoid situations like this, where one of both parties decide they want to change a settlement agreement.

If you have a settlement agreement that you haven’t sent to the court yet, then you and your spouse are free to change it before signing. You two can also hire lawyers to help with the agreement.

Once a settlement agreement has been sent to the court, there will only be a small window of time when it can still be changed. It still needs to go before a judge, who will read through it and sign the divorce decree, making the agreement official. You or your spouse can contact the court if you get second thoughts and don’t want to go through with the agreement.

What If Settlement Agreement Is Official?

It’s not quite as easy if a judge has signed your divorce decree and made your settlement agreement official. There are still ways to modify the agreement, though.

If you and your spouse both want the settlement agreement changed, that will help speed things along. The court will typically allow changes to a settlement agreement, provided both spouses approve of the changes. You two can each hire lawyers to represent you and come up with a new agreement. It’s best to wait until after you both have reached a new agreement before you ask the court to change anything.

One important thing to keep in mind is that until any changes are made to the settlement agreement, the previous agreement is still valid and you need to abide by it. For example, if you were required in the previous agreement to pay spousal support, you must pay it until the agreement is officially changed. You can’t stop paying until that happens, or your ex-spouse could file a claim against you for violating the settlement.

Changing a Settlement Agreement without Your Ex-Spouse’s Consent

If your spouse decides they want to stick with the original settlement agreement, then your only option is filing a motion to modify the agreement with the court. This will require demonstrating a valid reason for the change, which can include signing an agreement under duress or your ex-spouse keeping property hidden during the divorce proceedings. You will need to provide evidence to the court of any allegations you make. It can be hard to change an agreement when your ex-spouse doesn’t consent to the changes, which is why it’s best to read carefully through your settlement the first time around.

Whether your settlement agreement is official or not, a skilled divorce lawyer can help you. If it’s not official yet, your lawyer can look through the agreement to ensure that you’re getting what you deserve. If it is official and you want it changed, your lawyer can represent you throughout that process.

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