23 Jul 16

Can the mediation papers be changed after both parties sign them?

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Mediation papers are a binding contract between two or more parties. There are still times when it might be beneficial or necessary to modify the finalized documents. The papers can be changed in certain situations. Here is what you should know about having mediation papers changed after they are signed by both parties.

Contact the Original Mediator

One possible way to have an agreement changed is to contact the original mediator. That person might be able to rectify a certain set of problems with the papers. The mediator will most likely have to get the consent of the other party or that individual’s lawyer to make larger changes. A mediator could also bring everyone back to the table in an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.

Discuss Things with the Other Parties Involved

If there seems to be an error, omission or other issue with the final mediation papers, then you can attempt to discuss the problems with the other parties involved. If you and the other party agree to make changes, then the papers can be modified easily by an attorney. This option is best for people who had a calm dispute or when attempting to correct technical errors.

File a Motion to Vacate

A legal option that you can take is to file a motion to vacate in the courts. You are going to need an attorney to get the best chance of achieving this goal. A motion to vacate will basically invalidate the mediation agreement in full. That means nothing in the agreement will apply to you or the other parties if the motion is granted. A judge will decide whether to vacate the agreement. You normally need a valid reason to file this type of motion.

Valid Reasons to Vacate the Papers

There are several reasons why a judge would invalidate a mediation agreement. You will have to prove your case to the judge. You might have signed the papers under duress meaning the other party was threatening you in some way. Another valid reason is that you were deceived. This could occur if you sign an agreement and then it was changed without your approval later. You might also be able to have the papers withdrawn if the other party lied about assets or other important factors just so that you would sign the agreement. These are complicated issues that sometimes require going to trial.

Speak To an Attorney

If you cannot get the other party to agree to the changes or a motion to vacate fails, then you need to speak to an attorney. Although it can be difficult, an attorney might be able to find legal or technical reasons why a particular mediation agreement should be modified or invalidated in court. Only a skilled lawyer will have the knowledge to know what to look for. Seek out an experienced attorney if all other options to change the papers have failed.

Changes in Circumstances

A final reason you might be able to have mediation papers changed in court is if there was a recent change in circumstances. This action will also require an attorney. A change in circumstances within your life or the life of the other party might make maintaining the terms of the agreement impossible. These are things like losing a job or moving to another state.

Mediation is a popular means of coming to a divorce settlement. These papers allow both parties the opportunity to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial and acceptable. In many cases, mediation is effective. However, there are times when a mediation agreement needs to be changed.

It is important to understand what a mediation agreement is. It is not a handshake deal that can be broken at will. Rather, it is an enforceable legal contract that is usually reinforced by a court order. Mediation agreements should not be broken for any reason. To do so puts you at risk of legal penalties, up to and including being jailed for contempt of court. If a person needs to change the terms of the papers, there are ways to accomplish this legally even after both parties have signed them.

If the mediation papers were filed in a court as part of an official divorce settlement, the party who wishes to change them will need to file for an amendment to an order. Judges are reluctant to amend orders without a good reason unless both parties agree. This process requires expert legal representation. In many cases, both parties will need to go to mediation again. The person who wants the change in the papers will often need to shoulder the costs for this repeat mediation, including mediation fees and court costs. In most cases, you will not be asked to pay for the other person’s lawyer, although this is still a possibility.

If the papers will not filed in a court, the process is much the same. However, you can try to first contact the other party and get them to agree to your changes. If they agree, you can ask for this in writing. The new mediation papers should be signed, notarized, and state explicitly that they replace the former agreement. If both of you agree to change an informal mediation agreement, the process is very simple. It is still a good idea to consult a lawyer to ensure that the new agreement meets legal standards and fully replaces the old one. However, if the other party does not agree to the changes then you can take them to court. Again, you will usually be expected to pay court costs and mediation fees.

Courts generally like to enforce existing agreements if these agreements were reasonable. You will need to meet a high bar to change the clauses of mediation papers without the other party’s consent. You can do so if you can show that you were tricked or otherwise unaware of the consequences of the agreement. You also can do so if circumstances have changed such that the agreement is no longer reasonable. Last, courts will be sympathetic if the other party misled you about the situation. For example, a financial agreement may be modified if the other party is found to have lied about their assets.

Changes to mediation papers often occur in custody situations, because children have changing needs and living arrangements. Child support agreements also may be changed if one of the parties is earning far more or far less than they did when the papers were signed. If you wish to change the division of property from a divorce, however, this will be more difficult. Once money has been disbursed, it is highly unlikely that a court will give you a different award.

Many people need to change mediation papers even after they have been signed. There are many legal ways to do this. Consult an experienced family law attorney today to find out how you can make the changes you need to meet the changing needs of your family.

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