11 Aug 23

Can I appeal the property settlement if I felt pressured to sign?

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Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 06:51 pm

Emotions and Voluntary Decision-Making in Divorce Cases

Emotions nearly always run high in divorce cases. With that said, when a party to a divorce case makes a decision regarding the settlement of an issue in the case, that decision must be made freely and voluntarily. In other words, no matter the emotional intensity of a particular divorce case, when a party makes a decision on an issue in a marriage dissolution proceeding, that decision cannot be coerced or the result of undue pressure.

The Risk of Feeling Pressured in Property Settlement Agreements

One area in which the risk of feeling pressured exists is in regard to the property settlement agreement in a divorce case. The property settlement agreement is the legal document that sets forth the agreements reached by the parties to a divorce case in regard to the assets and debts of a marriage. In the alternative, the parties may enter into a broader divorce settlement agreement, which resolves all issues in the case, including those associated with property and debt.

Property Settlement Agreement is a Binding Contract

A property settlement agreement is a binding contract. As such, the standard rules regarding the signing of a contract come into play.

These rules include that the person signing the contract must have the mental capacity to understand what he or she is doing. A person signing a settlement agreement needs to understand the content of that document.

As is the case with any contract, and as has been referenced a moment ago, a person cannot be pressured into signing a property settlement agreement. The reality is that in a divorce case, pressure associated with forcing agreement to a property settlement agreement can come in many forms. These include threats, deception, and other types of coercion.

Relief from a Settlement Agreement You Signed Under Pressure

If you were pressured to sign a property settlement agreement, you do have recourse. The first line of recourse available to you is in the divorce court, assuming your case is still pending or only recently came to a conclusion.

You, or your attorney, can file a motion to set aside the property settlement agreement. In the motion, you delineate the specific factors supporting your contention that you were forced to sign the property settlement agreement.

Once the motion is filed, the court is likely to schedule a hearing in a fairly short period of time. There is the possibility that when the motion is filed, the other party will agree to allowing the settlement agreement to be set aside to avoid what could prove to be uncomfortable court proceedings.

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If your divorce case only very recently ended, and provided your case meets time requirements and related issues, you may have the ability to appeal the case to an appellate court. Through the appeal, you can argue that the settlement agreement should be set aside because you somehow were forced or pressured to sign it.

You need to understand that in many ways the procedures associated with appealing a divorce case are even more complicated than those associated with the divorce or trial court. Therefore, you likely best protect your legal interests when it comes to appealing whether or not you voluntarily signed a property settlement agreement by hiring a skilled, experienced lawyer. There are lawyers that specialize in appellate cases. In addition, there are attorneys that specialize further in divorce cases that are appealed.