Is it possible to reopen a divorce?

Once a judge signs a divorce Decree finalizing a divorce, that divorce is final.  Parents occasionally need to modify the parenting time schedule which is normal as children get older.  They may also feel they need to modify legal custody or physical custody because of certain events making the change in the best interests of the children.  Minnesota law allows these events to be reconsidered under certain circumstances.

What about reopening the division of debts and assets?  It may be a situation where the division of real estate, debts, and retirement plans are reopened but in limited circumstances.  Minnesota Statute §518.145 states:

On motion and upon terms as are just, the court may relieve a party from a judgment and decree, order, or proceeding under this chapter, except for provisions dissolving the bonds of marriage, annulling the marriage, or directing that the parties are legally separated, and may order a new trial or grant other relief as maybe just for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;

(2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under the Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 59.03;

(3) fraud, whether denominated intrinsic or extrinsic, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party;

(4) the judgment and decree or order is void; or

(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment and decree or order upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment and decree or order should have prospective application.

A person wanting to reopen a divorce must do so within a reasonable period of time after the divorce but not more than one year after the judge signed the Divorce Decree.  The philosophy of this law is not to allow a party to right a wrong, but to allow a former couple to rely on the finality of the divorce.

Having an attorney to make sure there is a complete, full, and accurate disclosure of debts and assets is invaluable so to reduce the risk of having a divorce reopened in the future because financial information was excluded during the divorce process.

Contact experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle at (218) 722-2655 to schedule a consultation to discuss the divorce process.

Jessica Sterle