Can I change property distribution judgment after divorce?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been married for 15 years. I knew my spouse was hiding things from me, but I recently found out there were several valuable assets that were hidden from me during the divorce proceeding. Our divorce was finalized last month. I am wondering what rights I might have to get the courts to reopen the property distribution judgment and get the portion of the property that was mine redistributed to me. I live in the State of Kansas.”

Divorce overview for the State of Kansas

Divorce can be devastating. Spouses are having to make tough financial and emotional decisions that could substantially affect their futures. Throw in kids and anger from an affair or other issues and it’s tough for some spouses to think straight.

While some divorce terms such as child support, child custody, or spousal support may be modified if one spouse can prove that there has been a considerable change in the situation, other issues such as property or debt division may be more difficult to modify. In fact, legal experts note that in most cases courts have ruled against modification of property distribution after the decree has been finalized, and these rulings have been “strongly and broadly applied by courts.”

How is property divided in Kansas after divorce?

Kansas utilizes the notion of equitable distribution to determine how property should be divided after divorce. Equitable distribution allows for property to be divided “fairly” but does require a 50/50 split of all assets.

Prior to distributing property, spouses must determine whether the property (or debt) is marital or separate, agree on the value of the property, and hopefully, decide together how to divide the property.

Note, if the couples cannot work together to formulate a property division plan, the court will intervene. Prior to making their decision, however, the court will evaluate a variety of factors including the length of the marriage, the age of each spouse, each spouse’s present and future earning capacity, etc.

Modifying a property distribution judgment

Now, you specifically asked about modifying your property distribution judgment. Although modifications of child support and child custody agreements are requested all of the time, reopening and requesting a modification of the property distribution judgment is rare. In fact, Kansas courts will only allow couples to reopen or modify a property distribution judgment within one year of the final judgment if certain factors are present: fraud, mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect.

You mentioned that you have discovered that your spouse has potentially defrauded you regarding the value or presence of certain assets. In this case, you need to talk to a lawyer and discuss whether you might have the legal right to petition the court to set aside the original judgment due to your husband’s fraud and ask the court to review the property distribution judgment given your recently discovered evidence.

Bottom Line:

Given the difficulty of modifying a property distribution judgment in Kansas, it’s important to identify all of your marital assets prior to divorce. If your spouse is deceitful or not forthcoming with critical financial information, you may need to hire a professional to locate all of your assets.

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