As a Texas divorce attorney, I often see cases where one party to a mediated settlement agreement tries to set it aside after it has been signed. In a recent appellate case, a wife appealed from a final divorce decree that incorporated the terms of the couple’s mediated settlement agreement. She claimed that there was fraud during the mediation because her husband said the real estate owned by the trust was his separate property when, in fact, she owned the other property through the trust instruments and was entitled to an equal share of the proceeds of the sale.

Binding Nature of Mediated Settlement Agreements

Under the Texas Family Code, a mediated settlement agreement is binding as long as it meets certain statutory requirements. If it does, the court does not need to evaluate whether the division of property is just and right. In this case, the appellate court found that there was no credible evidence of duress or fraud, and therefore the mediated settlement agreement was binding.

Setting Aside Mediated Settlement Agreements

It is important to note that in Texas, the court will only set aside a mediated settlement agreement if there is evidence of duress, fraud, or other circumstances that justify doing so. In this case, the wife argued that the mediation should be considered duress because she was disabled and it lasted 12 hours. However, the court found that the sale of the property was known to her during the mediation, and when she entered into the agreement, she knew that her husband had already sold the property. Therefore, there was no credible evidence to support her argument.

Importance of Understanding Mediated Settlement Agreements

As a divorce attorney, I tell my clients that it is crucial to carefully review and understand the terms of a mediated settlement agreement before signing it. While the court will generally enforce these agreements, it is important to make sure that they are fair and just, and that all parties have entered into them willingly and without duress. In this case, the appellate court upheld the mediated settlement agreement, but it is always important to carefully consider the facts and circumstances of each individual case.

Conclusion

In summary, mediated settlement agreements are binding in Texas as long as they meet certain statutory requirements. They will only be set aside by the court if there is evidence of duress, fraud, or other circumstances that justify doing so. It’s important to carefully review and understand the terms of a mediated settlement agreement before signing it to ensure that it is fair and just, and that all parties have entered into it willingly and without duress. In any case, it is always important to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the legal implications of the agreement.

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