In re Marriage of Medeiros - Reopening a Case
The law is comprised of both statute and caselaw. Statute sets forth the basic law as created by the legislature. However, statutes are general in nature and it is not always clear how they apply to a specific set of facts. Appellate courts interpret the statutes as they apply to a specific set of facts where a party does not agree with a trial court decision. We can learn a great deal about the law by reviewing appellate decisions.
As a prelude to the case, it is important to review the law on reopening cases as there are only limited circumstances where cases can be reopened. “The provisions as to property disposition may not be revoked or modified unless the court finds the existence of conditions that justify the reopening of a judgment.” C.R.S. 14-10-122(1)(a). Also, “Once a separation agreement is incorporated into a decree of dissolution, it becomes a part of the decree and cannot be modified as to the property distribution except by obtaining relief from judgment in accordance with the rules of civil procedure.” Camack v. Camack, 62 P.3d 1097 (Colo. App. 2002).
Cases can be reopened under the following circumstances:
- Concealed or misstated asset
- Clerical error
- Any other reason justifying relief from the judgment
In In re Marriage of Medeiros, the Colorado Court of Appeals considered the issue of case reopening. 2023 COA 42 (May 18, 2023). In Medeiros, after an evidentiary hearing on final orders and before the court issued a ruling or decree of dissolution, Husband requested that the court to reopen the case contending that Wife would be inheriting a significant amount of money soon and this fact should be considered. The Court denied the motion finding that it did not have authority to reopen the case.
Husband appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed finding that the trial court did have the authority to reopen the case. It found that the trial court must consider generally:
- The adequacy of the offer of proof (meaning what Husband said about the inheritance)
- The materiality of the changed circumstances
- The length of time since the evidentiary hearing
- Whether the evidence was available prior to the hearing
- Whether the other party provided full financial disclosure
- Whether the request to reopen was brought in good faith
A knowledgeable and experienced divorce and family law attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs divorce and family law matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. Give yourself the benefit of hiring one. This allows you to focus on moving on to a better future instead of spending your time attempting to navigate complex legal rules and procedures.
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