Separation Agreements vs. Consent Orders

March 25, 2010

Many, many times I have had the unhappy duty to explain to a Client the effect of their Separation Agreement or Consent Order AFTER it was signed.  Naturally, after the fact is too late to be asking questions.  The best general policy is to NEVER sign any kind of marital agreement or consent order without understanding the nature and effect of what you are doing.  That does not mean that its enough to understand what is included.  Let me give some examples of assumptions people make that they should not.  Do not.assume that dental expenses are the same as medical.  Do not assume your spouse will help with college for your children.  Do not assume that non-reimbursed medical expenses are included or will be divided  Do not assume your spouse will ease up on you or give you a break if you are low on cash one month.  Do not assume you can stop paying alimony when your spouse gets a job.  Do not assume your spouse will help you with your bills when “they have the money”.  Do not assume your spouse will have to sign a deed.  Do not assume you will be getting any equity if something is sold later.  Do not assume anyone will make payments on time.  Do not assume you can come back and change or add things later.  Do not assume anyone is going to refinance anything into their name alone.  Do not assume that retirement savings or pensions will be split when you “divorce”.  Do not assume the because you found an agreement on the internet that is must be ok…  Do not assume anything.

You need to understand what`s not included as well.  You also need a clear understanding of what you will do if the agreement is violated or what will happen to you if you violate the agreement.  I recently read a separation agreement prepared by a lawyer that required a relatively low income individual to pay permanent alimony for a short term marriage as well as pay for every conceivable expenses any individual could ever incur for the rest of the life of the other party.  People tend to want to just “get out” and are willing to sign anything in some cases.  Please, take a breath, think, and act to protect yourself.

Talk to an attorney experienced in family law before you enter into any agreement.  Know your rights before its too late.


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