Florida, like most states, does not typically allow divorced couples to make a modification to their final divorce property decree. However, when it can be demonstrated that additional assets (or debt) were inadvertantly left off the property valuation, or one party fraudulently hid assets, one of the spouses may, indeed, file a motion for the court to reconsider.
This blog post will explain the circumstances and the court procedures.
Why Florida courts won't let you modify your property agreement
A signed marital property agreement is a written contract, which the judge approves (adjudicates) before handing it down as a final decree. Every asset and debt should have been disclosed during the discovery portion of your divorce. A property decree is set based on your marital property brought to the table during the legal process. Unlike child support, custody and visitation rights and even spousal maintenance, which require proof of a change in financial circumstances, the courts will not consider a change in the original valuation of the marital property unless there are extenuating circumstances material to the original decision.
Mistakes were made
If a spouse can prove that some assets were not fully disclosed during discovery, he or she may file a motion to reopen the case on grounds that a mistake was made by one or both parties. For a successful motion, the party will have to demonstrate that:
1. One or both parties made a mistake
2. The mistake was material to the outcome of the judgment
3. The mistake could not have been discovered prior to the divorce decree
Fraud and misrepresentation
The other primary reason a court will consider reopening a property decree is because of fraud. To be successful, the spouse must demonstrate that:
1. A statement by the defending spouse misrepresented the facts regarding assets and property valuation
2. The fraud was deliberately committed or orchestrated by the defending spouse
3. The spouse filing the motion to reopen could not have discovered the fraud through due diligence
If you need to reopen your case
Filing motions to reopen a divorce property decree based on a mistake, fraud or misrepresentation is a complex legal matter. If you reside in South Florida and think your property decree should be modified due to hidden assets, talk to an experienced attorney. Dennis R. Wallace in Punta Gorda will review your case and explain your options.