Coronavirus Financial Woes: Can Divorce Settlements Be Reopened?

Following the coronavirus economic shutdown, more divorced couples are questioning whether they can reopen divorce settlement agreements. As a result of the global recession, the value of financial assets at the time of divorce has been substantially lowered. 

Under certain circumstances, your divorce lawyer can appeal to have your divorce settlement reopened. Judges, however, are reluctant to do so, so you will need to make a strong case. 

Grounds for Reopening a Divorce 

In most cases, the lower-earning spouse—usually the wife—asks her divorce attorney to petition the court to renegotiate a divorce settlement. Grounds for renegotiating a divorce settlement include fraud, duress, mistakes made in negotiations, and unfairness. Fraud is the most common reason for an appeal. A case currently before the courts involving a Texas billionaire accused of hiding assets in a web of trusts by his former wife is but one example of hiding assets and misrepresenting finances that would materially change the divorce settlement.

During the 2008 global recession, the tables were turned. Husbands sought to renegotiate divorce settlements after a significant change in their net worth. In these cases, they may argue the original terms no longer make sense and may, due to changes in financial position, be impossible to fulfill. Following the coronavirus economic shutdown, the legal community is bracing for a resurgence in spouses asking whether judges can reevaluate their ability to pay. 

Renegotiating Spousal Support 

In many states, monthly spousal and child support payments can be renegotiated. If the supporting spouse's financial situation or the dependent spouse's needs change, you may ask your divorce lawyers to negotiate new support agreement terms. This process avoids expensive divorce appeals. A decrease in income as a result of the global pandemic could be considered a change in circumstances. 

Renegotiating a Divorce Settlement  

If you have experienced a loss or decline in income, or devaluation in your pension assets, real estate, or business, you may be seeking to reopen your divorce. 

Terms you may want to renegotiate could include:

  • property division (e.g., real estate, investment portfolio)
  • pension division/sharing 
  • lump-sum payments

First and foremost, you will need to prove that your change in financial position is a result of the coronavirus and not normal market fluctuations. Furthermore, you will need to prove that your change in net worth is not temporary. If you are considering going to the expense of reopening your divorce, also consider the possibility of an economic rebound. The recovering economy could return to normal long before your case is heard by a divorce judge. 

A divorce lawyer has expertise in evaluating the financial assets and future earnings power of both spouses. A legal consultation is the first step to assessing the temporary and long-term impacts of the coronavirus confinement on your finances. For more information, talk to