In today’s world, there is a wealth of information available over the internet. People often turn to the web when trying to find a cheaper method for preparing a separation agreement or “property settlement agreement.” Agreement templates are available online for a nominal fee, which makes them very attractive to many divorcing couples.
However, each divorce case is unique. Forms found online are general and may not adequately address your needs. You may find that the form you chose to use is tailored for a different jurisdiction or even a different state than where you live. The form may not reference the correct applicable law, or may fail to include provisions that are vital in your case.
Some choose to use a friend or co-worker’s previously drafted agreement and try to make that agreement work for their own case. However, the facts and circumstances surrounding your marital separation will usually be much different than that of your friend’s. You may want certain protections that your friend may have willingly waived. Your case may involve issues or property that was not addressed in your friend’s agreement. Most agreements are specific to the particular facts of the individual case.
Unfortunately, relying on templates found online or even a friend’s previously drafted agreement may ultimately be even more costly to you. Once a property settlement agreement is signed by both parties, it is an enforceable contract. It is extremely difficult to get such an agreement set aside, absent fraud, duress, or a mutual agreement of both parties. By signing an agreement that has not been prepared for your specific case, you may find you have waived certain rights or failed to adequately protect your interests. Even if you seek advice from an experienced attorney prior to signing such an agreement, you will likely find that it is more costly for the attorney to review and revise the language you took from a friend, than it would been to simply prepare the agreement correctly for you from the start.
Prior to having an agreement drafted, it is best to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. The attorney can assist you in developing language that best suits your specific desires. An experienced attorney will be able to ensure that you are not waiving rights or foregoing interests in property or support to which you may otherwise be entitled. And if you have minor children, an experienced attorney can help you work out a custody and visitation arrangement that will be enforceable in court.
The divorce attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. have years of experience in the drafting, negotiation and review of separation agreements. If you are facing a separation and divorce in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a consultation today.