Can a Signed Settlement Agreement Not Be Enforced?

A signed settlement agreement is a powerful document requiring the demonstration of an extreme condition to render it null and void. If a party wishes to withdraw from the settlement, they must prove fraud, duress, coercion, or unconscionability. Before a settlement is voided, the parties must present their cases to a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant nullifying the agreement.

1. Fraud

If one party knowingly misrepresents vital factors in the case to mislead the other party into signing the settlement, then they are guilty of fraud, and the settlement may be voided. The most common example is failure to disclose financial assets during a divorce settlement negotiation.

2. Duress and Coercion

If a party threatens or carries out an act that they are not legally entitled to do to push the other party into accepting the settlement, then the settlement was made under duress. A crass example would be a spouse threatening violence against the other during divorce settlement negotiations. Conversely, threatening to take legal action, like filing for custody, is not grounds for duress.

Coercion is closely related to duress, but it does not necessarily have to involve a distinguishable threat or come from an involved party. Coercion occurs if an outside force somehow overrides a person's free will to refuse to sign.

4. Unconscionable Terms

A settlement can be considered unconscionable if the terms are so egregious that one party would suffer so much that their continued existence is questioned. Unfair does not equate to unconscionable, so the offended party must prove that fulfilling the terms would leave them destitute.

If you have any questions and seek legal assistance, contact our Divorce Attorney in Genesee County at Gerkin & Decker. We have a track record of success for our clients and can help you with your case. Call us today for a consultation! 

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