excellence. experience. empathy.
It looks like the deal that brought basketball superstar Dwayne Wade home is lighting a fire under more than just Bulls fans. After news of the deal broke, Wade’s ex-wife, Siohvaughan Funches, filed a motion in their divorce case to re-open their divorce settlement and award her a larger portion of his earnings.
The nature of her claims are two-fold: on one hand, she is seeking to modify a judgment, on the other, she is seeking to set aside the settlement agreement. These issues are not limited to just high-profile or high net worth cases. Often, one party to a marital settlement agreement experiences ‘buyer’s remorse’ and tries to back out of the agreement. Typically this happens in high-asset and acrimonious divorces, as one party settles but reneges because he or she remains convinced that the or she is entitled to more. Sometimes this is also done as a bluff as a last-ditch effort to squeeze a little more out of the settlement. However, once the ink is dry on a settlement agreement, it is very very hard to back out. In Illinois, a party seeking to set aside a settlement agreement must prove that the agreement was entered into under fraud or duress or that the terms therein are unconscionable or otherwise contrary to law or public policy. See e.g. In Re: Marriage of McLauchlan, 2012 IL App (1st) 102114. While there are a few reasons for this rule, the courts’ primary focus is to encourage settlement and preserve the finality of matters. If every party were entitled to come back and re-litigate issues that they had freely settled, dissolution cases would be litigated into perpetuity, exhausting the resources of both the courts and the parties. Such lengthy and contentious battles are not in anyone’s best interests, nor is buyer’s remorse likely to be rewarded. Ms. Wade does not claim the agreement is unfair or that she was forced into signing the documents; rather, her claim is that her attorney entered the agreement without her authorization. Given that Ms. Funches signed the Agreement and was present when the terms therein were presented to the Florida court for approval, this argument is not likely to be successful.
While, the ex-Mrs. Wade is unlikely to be successful in setting aside the settlement agreement, her stronger argument is for a modification of the judgment. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”) provides that property dispositions are not modifiable; however, maintenance and child support awards may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. 750 ILCS 5/510. Wade signed a 2 year, $47 million deal with the Bulls. During his tenure with the Miami Heat, Wade’s salary ranged from $15 to $20 million. Under the current divorce judgment, Ms. Funches received a $5 million payout, in addition to $25,000+ in monthly support and in-kind benefits. In order to modify the currently judgment, she would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Dwayne Wade’s deal with the Bulls constitutes a substantial change in circumstance justifying an increase in the maintenance and other benefits she receives under the current judgment. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to decide.
For more on this story, check out http://wgntv.com/2016/07/10/dwyane-wades-ex-wife-wants-divorce-settlement-reopened-after-new-deal/.
If you have questions or concerns about post-decree issues in your case, contact the Nally Law Group today to schedule a consultation.