Can a property settlement be altered after the divorce is final?

You may remember the story from a couple of years ago -- Frank and Jamie McCourt, co-owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, went through a very public divorce around the same time they were forced to sell the team, which was in bankruptcy. The couple had been married since 1979, so the main issue in the case was how to divide their remaining interest in the Dodgers and Frank McCourt's commercial real estate development business.

When the divorce was settled, Jamie was led to believe the problems with the Dodgers franchise had left the couple with total assets "in the range of $300 million." Therefore, agreed to a property settlement of $131 million, half of their shared residential real estate assets, and a tax indemnity.

Two weeks after she signed the property settlement agreement, the Dodgers were sold for $2.15 billion.

Now, Jamie McCourt's attorneys claim she was shorted by $770 million -- and that it's all Frank McCourt's fault. She has now filed a petition to reopen that property settlement based on allegations of fraud, perjury, breach of fiduciary duty, failure to make required disclosures, and other misconduct.

If my Maryland property settlement was unfair, can I get it changed?

It depends on the reason you think it was unfair. Typically, a divorcing couple will either work out a divorce settlement agreement and present it to a judge for approval, or ask the judge to rule on the issues after a trial. In either case, each spouse is expected to be up-front and honest about their financial assets.

Once the divorce is final, you may not be satisfied with how things worked out. Here in Maryland, dissatisfaction with the divorce decree generally isn't enough to have it changed, however, especially if you don't ask the judge to reconsider the order right away.

What Jamie McCourt claims happened in her divorce, however, was that her ex wasn't fully honest about the true value of the LA Dodgers, one of their largest shared assets. Such situations do happen. When someone here in Maryland becomes concerned that an ex-spouse intentionally hid assets or lied about their value, the Maryland courts will listen, just as they do in California.

If you have concerns about your own divorce or family law order, an attorney can help you determine if you have good reason to have it modified.