Depression Does Not Set Aside Marital Dissolution Agreement in Tennessee Divorce: Beem v. Beem

Facts: Parties entered into Marital Dissolution Agreement that was approved by the court.  Several weeks later, Husband changed his mind and filed a petition to have the MDA set aside on the grounds that he was not mentally competent to enter into the agreement because of his severe depression.  After a hearing, Husband’s petition was denied and Husband was directed to reimburse Wife for $35,000 in attorney’s fees.  Husband (a lawyer himself) appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Husband failed to carry the “heavy burden” of proving he was unable to understand the nature and consequences of his actions when he signed the MDA.  The Court noted that depression would not invalidate the MDA unless it rose to the level of a disabling mental incapacity that interfered with Husband’s cognitive abilities.  The attorney’s fee award was affirmed and Wife was awarded her attorney’s fees on appeal.

Practically everyone involved in a divorce is depressed.  It is an emotionally traumatic event for most people, even if they try to fake it and act like it isn’t.  This case makes clear that depression—even severe depression—does not free one from a contractual agreement absent compelling proof that one was mentally incapacitated at the time the agreement was reached.

Beem v. Beem (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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