Divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in people, particularly when it comes to finances. According to a 2015 report by CNBC, 7.2 million Americans admit to concealing money, purchases and assets from their spouses – and this is before divorce rears its ugly head. If you discover after the ink has dried on your divorce decree that you were a victim of your ex's lies of concealment of assets, you have a few options under Florida law.
Setting Aside a Marital Settlement Agreement
If you divorced by marital settlement agreement, that can be set aside if there was fraud. This would negate negotiated terms for property division or support with your spouse that were submitted to the court. It's not enough that you got a bum deal. Your attorney must establish that your ex intentionally lied or took deliberate steps to make sure you didn't have full and accurate knowledge of your marital finances when you entered into and signed the agreement. Negotiations must have taken place before you filed for divorce and engaged in any "discovery" processes – the exchange of information between you and your ex is instrumental to reaching a fair and comprehensive settlement. In this case, you can ask the court to set aside your agreement and start your divorce anew.
Appealing the Judgment
If the terms of your divorce decree were set and ordered by the court, you may still have the option of asking the court to set it aside. This involves establishing that your ex lied not only to you, but defrauded the court as well. Your attorney can also appeal the judgment if you entered into a marital settlement agreement after filing for divorce. Appeals are typically reserved for correcting clerical errors or mistakes made by the court – the judge ruled in a way that's not supported by law. But Rule 1.540 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure allows your attorney to ask for relief from your divorce judgment due to newly discovered evidence and fraud. In this case, you have a limited time to act – one year from the date your decree is issued.
A Motion for Rehearing
Another option – if you act quickly enough – is for your lawyer to file a motion for rehearing, asking the court to reconsider some particular aspect of its ruling. A motion for rehearing must be filed within 10 days.
No matter how you look at it, time is of the es
sence and it's on your ex's side. If months or years slide by before you realize his or her deception, the more likely it becomes that your former spouse will get away with fraud. If you have suspicions, it's important that you tell your attorney as soon as possible so an investigation can be made, ideally even before you file for divorce.