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The bad news is, getting a case overturned based on your attorney's poor representation is a tough one to guarantee, particular from this venue, where we can't have access to the full file - you would have to likely show malpractice, rather than a subsequent lack of happiness with the result, in hindsight. A signing of a settlement agreement is generally binding and non reversable unless you can show you were not of sound mind, were coerced, or the like. Generally, agreeing to a settlement of issues will not be overturned due to a subsequent change of heart and because both sides generally have compromised off of their original demands, neither side is usually not 100% pleased. Thus, you really can never guarantee a reversal. However, you can file an ethics complaint against your attorney if you think she did not live up to a competent level when representing you, particularly if you can show it was detrimental to the outcome. This shouldn't cost anything to do. But again, remember that being unsatisfied with an agreement that you made will not suffice - you will have to give tangible examples of where she failed to properly advise, legally speaking.
However, the good news is that you do have the option of filng a motion to modify spousal support and you can do this pro se if money is a factor (when isn't it, right?) - although it will take a little studying up of course to do it on your own, people self-represent in this area all the time.
The court's authority to modify spousal support agreements is governed by Ca Fam §§ 3590-3593. The provisions of an agreement for spousal support are subject to subsequent court-ordered modification or termination except as to amounts accrued before the date of filing the motion to modify or terminate and except to the extent the parties expressly agreed otherwise. [Ca Fam § 3591(a),(b),(c)]
(Caveat: A spousal support order may not be modified or terminated to the extent the parties' written agreement or, if no written agreement, their oral agreement entered into in open court, expressly provides spousal support is not subject to modification or termination. [Ca Fam § 3651(d)]---so check you agreement.)
When deciding whether to seek a change in support consider that a spousal support modification may be granted only if the party seeking the modification shows a material change of circumstances since the most recent order.
Whether a spousal support modification is warranted "depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case, and its propriety rests in the sound discretion of the trial court . . ." [Marriage of Olson (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1, 7, 17 Cal.Rptr.2d 480, 485; Marriage of Tydlaska, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at 575, 7 Cal.Rptr.3d at 595-596]. So long as the trial court exercised its discretion along legal lines, its decision will not be disturbed on appeal if there is substantial evidence to support it. (Reversal requires a clear showing of abuse of discretion-rare, particularly if you yoursevles provided the court with a signed agreement).
Also, while proof of changed circumstances is required for a modification, the converse is not necessarily true: i.e., the court is not bound to alter or terminate support simply because one party has proven some change. There must be a substantial, material change (and of course, it is somewhat discretionary and subjective on whether a change in circumstances is 'substantial' and 'material'...)
When deciding your motion to modify, the court will have to consider and weigh all of the appropriate spousal support factors under Ca Fam § 4320. Those factors are:
1. Ability to maintain marital standard of living in light of earning capacities: The extent to which the parties' respective earning capacities are sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage (Ca Fam § 4320(a)).
---Under this one, you can argue that the ex has an ability to earn X amount more than he is earning now, particularly if he is not working full time to using all of his skills.
2. Contributions to other spouse's education, training, etc.:
The extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the other spouse's attainment of an education, training, career position or license. [Ca Fam § 4320(b)] Section 4320(b) is a companion to Ca Fam § 2641, which creates a right of reimbursement for community contributions to one spouse's education or training that "substantially enhances" the spouse's earning capacity.
-- I don't foresee this one helping you, as it wouldn't constitute a change.
3. Supporting spouse's ability to pay: The supporting spouse's ability to pay spousal support, taking into account his or her earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living. [Ca Fam § 4320(c)]
--- I.e. if you income decreased. However, if it hasn't changed, but the agreed amount is actually a true and severe hardhip, I would urge this point.
4. "Needs" in light of marital standard of living.
5. Parties' assets and debts: The parties' respective assets and obligations, including the separate property of each. [Ca Fam § 4320(e)] Thus, aspouse's separate estate (including assets allocated to each as a result of the community property division)--and the reasonable income potential therefrom--may require the "withholding" of support altogether or a termination of previously-awarded support. [Ca Fam § 4321(a)].
6. Duration of marriage. [Ca Fam § 4320(f)] The length of the parties' marriage bears both on the "need" for support (whether it should be ordered) and on the amount and duration. The longer a spouse has been out of the job market on account of the marriage, the stronger the case for granting support; by the same token, a relatively short marriage can, depending on the other § 4320 factors and the "totality of the circumstances," offset alleged "need" and justify a lower level of support and/or a shorter support term.
7. Employability of custodial spouse vs. impact on children: The ability of the supported spouse to engage in gainful employment without interfering with the interests of dependent children in his or her custody. [Ca Fam § 4320(g)]
8. Age and health of the parties. [Ca Fam § 4320(h)] On balance and after weighing all of the § 4320 factors, age and health may warrant either an extension or withholding of support. Age and health considerations are also particularly relevant to the question of duration of support.
11. Relative hardships: "The balance of hardships to each party." [Ca Fam § 4320(k)] This factor seems to underscore the court's obligation to consider and weigh all of the § 4320 circumstances in determining the appropriate amount and duration of spousal support.
12. Goal of self-support: "The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time." [Ca Fam § 4320(l) (e)] Except in marriages of long duration (as described in Ca Fam § 4336, a "reasonable period of time" within which to achieve the goal of self-support "generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage." [Ca Fam § 4320(l)]
-- This one you should definitely keep in mind for down teh road.
13. Spousal abuse conviction (mandatory factor for support reduction/termination): The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse is a mandatory factor to be considered in making a reduction or termination of
spousal support in accordance with Ca Fam § 4325. [Ca Fam § 4320(m)]
14. Other "just and equitable" factors: "Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable." [Ca Fam § 4320(n)] This final factor is a "catch-all," clarifying the court's authority to consider any other circumstances, although not expressly codified, bearing on the propriety of awarding support and, if so, its amount and duration.
--- There is nothing to say that you can not urge that the agreement you made is far from equitable and that your attorney was unprepared and pressured you to sign an extremely poor agreement and did not explain to you th e extent to which the law would have favored you differently from your agreement on the terms..
I know it is an extremely tough decision - hopefully the above factors will hlep you decide one way or another.
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