Modifying a post-divorce property settlement in Rhode Island is difficult but not impossible with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Certain conditions must be met before the courts will consider such a change, and they have limited authority to make modifications. The courts may interpret and enforce property settlements, but with the exception of a few conditions, they have no power to change a legally signed agreement.
Understanding Property Settlement Agreements
A property settlement agreement (PSA), often called a marital settlement agreement, itemizes what each spouse will receive when a divorce is final. It shows all the assets to be divided, including property, furniture, savings accounts, trusts, life insurance policies, and any other asset. The PSA outlines each spouse’s financial responsibilities in a divorce, such as paying shared debts or other obligations.
Modifying Rhode Island Divorce Property Settlements
In 1991, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that property settlement agreements were, in effect, a binding contract. The Riffenburg v Riffenburg decision established that the family court had no authority to modify a property settlement agreement after the divorce had been finalized. However, there are certain circumstances that allow for the modification of a PSA.
If one spouse can prove the other spouse deliberately hid assets, the court may reopen the divorce case. Hidden assets can include cash; real estate; collectibles such as jewelry, coins, and artwork; and offshore bank accounts.
If one of the divorcing parties misrepresented the full value of the marital assets, the court might be willing to re-examine the PSA. If it can be proven that one of the parties deliberately undervalued assets, failed to disclose the full value of an asset, and/or minimized the worth of others, and a complete examination of existing financial records shows a discrepancy, the court would likely reopen the case. It is critical that an attorney have the assets appraised and all documents and financial records be examined to uncover any misrepresentation. This information can be taken before a judge as a breach of contract.
If the two spouses co-own a business, the divorce decree typically requires the business to continue operating at a specific level. If the business fails to operate as defined in the PSA, it’s possible the court will consider reopening the case to renegotiate the terms of operation.
How a Rhode Island Attorney Can Help Find Hidden or Undervalued Assets
If you want to reopen your divorce case, it’s important to hire a lawyer who has experience examining all types of financial records, including private accounts, business holdings, corporate reports, investments, and property holdings. The attorney must understand the many ways an asset can be shielded from discovery. A total audit of every financial aspect, from life and health insurance to pension and retirement plans, must be completed. Your attorney should be experienced in complex asset division cases.
Failure to analyze every associated asset can change the outcome of your renegotiated PSA, possibly costing you the benefits you are entitled to in the division.
When You Need a Rhode Island Attorney to Help Modify Your PSA
If you believe there are discrepancies in financial records or if circumstances have changed since your divorce was finalized, speak with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible. Our skilled team of lawyers has successfully litigated post-divorce settlements for decades. We have the research skills to navigate complex financial arrangements, uncover hidden assets, and ensure that an agreement is fair to you.
Do You Need To Speak To A Rhode Island Divorce Attorney?
If you are considering a divorce you need to speak with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help divorce clients in Providence, Warwick and all areas of Rhode Island.