Can you change your mind after your’ve settled?
Can you change your mind about a property settlement deal later, if the property valuation turns out to be wrong?
The short answer is ‘No’. Once you have signed off on a property settlement deal in the form of Consent Orders and those orders have been issued by the court, then they are final and legally binding and they can only be changed in exceptional circumstances.
A change in the valuation of a property, or an argument that the valuation was wrong at the time of agreement, will not allow the orders to be changed, as a recent case demonstrated.
The case was an appeal by the husband against property settlement orders which were made by the Judge with the consent of both the husband and the wife.
- The orders required the husband to transfer his interest in a property to the wife on the basis that she would discharge the mortgage and pay him $55,000.
- The husband argued that settlement discussions proceeded on the erroneous basis that the property was worth $265,000 and not the $295,000 he believed it was worth. The $265,000 value came from a joint independent valuation which the parties had obtained, whereas the value of $295,000 was only the husband’s assertion and he had no other evidence of that value.
- The parties’ competing property settlement claims had been listed for hearing and each of them was legally represented when their bargain was struck and the orders were made.
- The husband’s lawyer pointed out to the Judge that it was the husband’s assertion that as at the date of hearing, the value of the property had increased to $295,000.
- The consent orders were signed by the husband and he was present in court (and legally represented) when the orders were made by the Judge.
- A consent order cannot be appealed on its merits by a party who consented to the order. An appeal must be based on specific grounds such as fraud, mistake, fresh evidence or the absence of jurisdiction.
In circumstances where the husband indicated that he disputed the property valuation but decided to settle, it is not open to the husband to complain on appeal that the Judge did not explore an issue which, by the settlement, the husband determined did not require adjudication.