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Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement In Arizona?

Posted on : March 29, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement in Arizona

Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement In Arizona?

Couples in Arizona who are contemplating divorce can enter into marital settlement agreements regarding their property and financial obligations. But is the divorce court required to accept them? In Wick v. Wick, 489 P.2d 19, 107 Ariz. 382 (1971), the Arizona Supreme Court discussed the divorce court’s duty and authority in entering a property division order when the spouses themselves have reached a settlement.

Facts of the Case

Henry Wick filed for divorce in Arizona from Jane Wick in 1965. About one year later, Henry and Jane settled their divorce case by signing a contract called “Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.” Henry almost immediately broke the contract and Jane filed a contract case against him. He admitted having signed the settlement but he then claimed it was an invalid contract.

The divorce and contract actions proceeded to trial together and the court entered separate rulings on each of them. It ruled for Jane in the contract action and denied Henry’s claims that the settlement was illegal or should be rewritten. However, the court declined to incorporate the property division set out in the settlement agreement into the divorce.

The court said that it wasn’t a fair and equitable division of community property. Instead, the court incorporated some parts of it and modified other parts. Jane appealed the divorce court’s failure to incorporate the entire settlement agreement into the divorce decree. Henry appealed the judgment entered for Jane in the contract action.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
A Google User
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20:31 20 Sep 17
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
A Google User
A Google User
21:41 07 Nov 17
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
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14:58 04 Oct 17
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
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16:03 22 Nov 17
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
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22:14 28 Jun 17
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
A Google User
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18:16 18 Sep 17
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
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19:22 23 Aug 17
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
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17:44 23 Jun 16
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
Bassam Ziadeh
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21:20 02 Apr 18
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
Larry Flint
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21:53 27 Feb 18
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.
Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

Contract Action

Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement In Arizona?

Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement In Arizona?

The Arizona Supreme Court agreed completely with the divorce court that the contract between the spouses was valid and enforceable. It denied Jane’s claim for attorney fees under the contract action since she was awarded one attorney fee amount for both actions combined.

Divorce Action

The sole issue in the divorce action was whether the trial court should have incorporated the entire property settlement agreement into the divorce decree. Jane argued that the divorce court could not disregard or modify the property distribution provisions of the settlement agreement merely because it felt the division agreed to was not fair and equitable. It was obliged to accept them. The Court disagreed, saying this was a misstatement of the law in Arizona. The Court said that nothing the spouses might agree to would limit the power given the divorce court to effect a fair and equitable settlement.

The Court discussed Arizona law about divorce settlements. It noted that spouses can, by a valid agreement between them, settle all of the property issues arising in a divorce. Normally, a divorce court will approve a valid agreement and incorporate it into the divorce decree, provided the settlement is free from any taint of fraud, coercion or undue influence, that the spouses acted with full knowledge of the property and their rights, and that the settlement was fair and equitable.

However, the Supreme Court stated that an Arizona divorce court is not bound to accept a property settlement agreement between spouses. The court’s duty is to enter a division of community property that is “just and right.” Therefore, the trial court here was not required to adopt Jane and Henry’s property settlement agreement.

Rather, the court’s duty was to figure out a property division that the court felt was fair, just and equitable, regardless of the agreement which had been entered into by the parties. The court could not be kept from this duty just because Jane and Henry entered into a property settlement agreement.



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