Can you have your Marital Settlement Agreement changed? It's often a difficult feat....
by Jerome C. Williams, Jr. on 07/15/16
A marital settlement agreement is essentially a contract. In order to have a legally enforceable contract, you must have the following four present: Offer, Acceptance, Consideration & no valid defenses. Usually, a challenge to or effort to change such agreements are subject to contract law. As a result of it being a contract, the agreement can usually be changed by agreement of the parties. If there is no agreement present, it can be difficult to change.
Since a settlement agreement is a contract, it must be challenged as so. Grounds which might allow for a successful challenge include mutual mistake
, and or unilateral mistake
. If the agreement was the product of fraud or coercion, it might be successfully challenged. However, with all of that said, please note that there are a few areas in which a court can most easily modify a marital settlement agreement. These areas include child support and alimony (Section 61.14 Florida Statute
If you are a party looking to amend your Final Judgment (in which the MSA was incorporated), you may have a difficult time having it amended, if not impossible. Child Support, Alimony, Time-sharing (Parenting-Plan) issues can be addressed and modified by a judge without any worry of intervening with the original parties' agreement. deLabry v. Sales
is a great example of the foregoing, as the parties originally in the MSA, agreed to a set number for child support payments. But, as a result of a "change in circumstances," the court modified the moving parties' child support payments. The ruling was upheld (2 to 1) on appeal.
If you're looking to modify any other aspects of the contract, you generally would need to have the consent of the other party (Joint Supplemental Petition and Agreement to Modify Final Judgment
). An option you might have at your disposal, to ensure that the other party is fully cooperating with following the agreement, would be a to file a "motion for contempt of court."