It is understandable that people terminate their relationship with their lawyer and stop thinking about legal procedure following the entry of their divorce. In many respects, this is a positive development, since it is best to put the past behind and begin to construct a new and revitalized life following divorce. However, the procedural aspects of a divorce are not necessarily over when the divorce is final. It is not unusual for questions to arise after the entry of divorce. It is also not particularly unusual for financial matters to arise after divorce which were not apparent before divorce.
For example, the parties’ understanding of the value of an asset may have been completely errant at the time of the divorce. Or, one party might find out that an asset or liability had been hidden. For example, a tax lien on property may not have been accounted for in an agreement or judgment. Our rules of procedure provide for dealing with post judgment errors, mistake or fraud. However, most of these matters must be brought to the attention of the Court within 6 months. There are two basic lessons here, one for clients, and the other for the lawyers.
Clients, when you think there has been a mistake, accident, fraud, misrepresentation, or newly discovered evidence, don’t think it doesn’t matter and don’t hesitate to contact your lawyer. If more than six months passes after your judgement, you may be barred from correcting it.
Lawyers, create reminders in your case management systems or calendars to make a friendly call to your former client to make sure everything is okay and no “Rule 60" Motion needs to be filed. Our firm routinely sends clients our “6 Month Fraud Letter” which we would be happy to share with anyone, and which will be available in the upcoming book by Mark A. Chinn published by the ABA Family Law Section on forms and procedures for family law.
There are exceptions to the six month rule, such as the judgement is void, but it is best not to toy with the six month deadline.