Due to a man’s breach of his Indiana divorce settlement agreement, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the award of half of the man’s stock to his now-ex-wife.
Indiana Divorce Agreements are Binding
In Indiana, a divorce settlement agreement is considered a binding contract. Once a settlement agreement is reached, it can not be altered. Couples who reach a divorce settlement agreement with divorce lawyers or Indiana courts are not privy to further negotiations.
The Indiana Dissolution Act encourages divorcing parties to reach agreements. In fact, parties to a divorce can agree to a division of assets that a trial court judge can not order under the law. The constitutional right to form divorce settlement agreements is strongly enforced by Indiana trial courts, as well as the Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court.
Under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B), parties may have viable options to amend divorce settlement agreements if fraud by either party is discovered. If a divorce settlement is entered into and parties or divorce lawyers find evidence of withholding information, a trial court or judge may void the agreement, much like voiding a contract. Depending on the discovered facts, a judge has a wide discretion of power to do what is just and fair for both parties. In such cases, a key factor includes withholding disclosure to gain an upper hand and timely actions to remedy the situation.
In a recent case decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals, the Court refused to reverse a trial court judge’s decision that refused to set aside a 1997 divorce decree based on information that was withheld by one party. The Court of Appeals’ action demonstrates two key points that were important to its final decision: (1) the wife waited years before taking actions to set aside the divorce agreement, and (2) the wife’s divorce lawyers advised her in writing on multiple occasions not to settle the case. Because the wife waited so long to claim fraud and failed to properly identify assets of the marital estate, the Court of Appeals ruled that the wife contributed to the inequitable division of property and assets previously approved by Indiana courts.
As a final note, Indiana courts always give priority to the best interests of children in divorce cases. Unlike cases that involve only property and assets, divorcing parties are not free to enter into an agreement that the court determines is not in the children’s best interests.