The terms of a divorce settlement will have an immediate impact on someone’s financial circumstances. They may lose control over certain property and have to assume specific financial obligations. Under California’s community property rules, almost everything from home equity to retirement savings is potentially on the table and subject to division in divorce proceedings.
Sometimes, couples reach their own negotiated settlement and move forward with an uncontested divorce wherein a judge only approves the terms they set. Other times, divorcing couples litigate and have a judge divide their property.
Typically, a property settlement order will be the final say in the matter of separating financial obligations and assets in a divorce. However, occasionally people need to revisit their settlement, which often proves challenging.
When is it possible to change a settlement?
In most cases, for someone to convince the family court that they need to go back over a property division decree and alter the outcome, there will need to be proof that there were issues with the initial order. For example, one spouse might uncover hidden assets after the end of the divorce process.
One of the most famous rulings related to hidden assets occurred in California in the 1990s. After one spouse filed for divorce and hid lottery winnings technically received during the marriage, the other discovered the lie after the divorce. When the courts heard the case, they ruled in favor of the spouse who had been denied the information about the lottery winnings and effectively awarded the full value of the hidden property to that spouse.
Barring some kind of spousal misconduct or severe mistake on the part of the lower courts, it is often very difficult to go back and correct a settlement issued during a divorce.
Getting it right the first time is the best option
There is no guarantee of success when appealing a family law matter or asking the courts to review a prior decision. The best chances of obtaining a reasonable outcome in property division matters come from performing a thorough review of resources and understanding the rules that apply to community property in California divorces.
Learning more about property division and family law rules with the assistance of an experienced legal professional can benefit those who are considering divorce in California.