We have all been there: you make a decision, realize it’s the wrong one, but you already inked the contract and it’s a done deal. In California divorce cases, the MSA, or Marital Settlement Agreement that becomes a judgment is a bad thing if you don’t like the deal you made.

Can you have it set aside? Generally speaking, no. If there has been fraud, perjury, or the other party has failed to disclose something important, you have one year from the date that you knew or should have known about it. If one year passes, you are probably toast. There is another code section California Code of Civil Procedure 473, which contains authority for the court to do things, but it’s generally a long shot at that stage.

In one case I had, mother discovered that father sold a company for about $20,000,000. According to the local newspaper, anyway. When she mentioned that in her court papers, and then failed to set-aside the judgment in time, father claimed that she already knew about it (despite having never disclosed it) and the court agreed. Unfair result? Yes. Contrary to the law? Nope. The courts have no patience for people constantly coming back and trying to re-litigate their cases, so they develop harsh rules for cases like this. While the court was entirely correct, my client did have a malpractice case against her former attorney that, in this rare instance, I supported.