In an unpublished opinion filed December 2, 2019 (Jacob Kanake M’mujuri v. Beatrice Kamathi Kanake, A19-0148), the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision to deny the Appellant’s motion to withdraw from a property settlement agreement that was reached during a settlement conference. Appellant, Respondent, and their perspective counsel, attended a review hearing almost 16 months after the proceedings for dissolution of marriage commenced. At the hearing, off the record, the parties agreed to allow the court to conduct a settlement conference. At the conference, the district court met with the parties and their attorneys and the parties were able to reach a property division agreement. A hearing was held immediately after the conference to confirm the parties’ agreement, at which time the parties confirmed the agreement. However, the parties did not submit a proposed order by the court’s deadline, which resulted in another review hearing; at that hearing the wife requested to withdraw from the property division agreement stating she was under duress at the settlement conference. The district court denied the wife’s request and directed counsel for both parties to submit a stipulated order, or else each submit their own individual proposed orders. Proposed orders with minor differences were filed, however two additional pieces of properties were found that were not included in the settlement agreement. The husband attempted to move forward with the divorce and said both properties could be awarded to the wife. The court accepted the wife’s proposed order successfully divorcing the parties, and the wife appealed.
Wife appealed on the argument that the judgment and decree was not supported by the record, and that the court should not have denied her motion to withdraw from the property division agreement as it was not fair and equitable and was made under duress. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision to not allow the wife to withdraw from the agreement; she was properly represented by a competent attorney in a properly conducted settlement conference. Regarding the property division being unfair or unjust, upon review of the information – which was very limited – submitted to the district court, it was also affirmed that the court issued a fair property settlement based off of the information provided to them and the agreements previously had by the parties.
Lesson to be had: A court can only make decisions based on the information that you provide to them, so make sure you are diligent in what you provide to the court for assets, debts, etc. in a divorce case; and make sure you know what you are agreeing to in any settlement discussions, and that what you agree to is something you can live with down the road.