In times of divorce, people walk into our family law office with questions of whether or not we believe their Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement is fair and equitable, unfortunately after they have already signed the document and it has become a legally binding document enforceable by the Court. As a general rule, do not sign a settlement proposal such as a Property Settlement Agreement or a Marital Settlement Agreement until you have had the opportunity to review it with an experienced matrimonial attorney. In addition, after the settlement proposal is signed, it is very difficult and often impossible, to undo any damage that leaves you in an unfair position regarding, for instance, payment of alimony, child support or your share of assets from the marriage.
You have the right to have any settlement proposal reviewed by independent counsel of your choosing. Sometimes a wife or a husband will seek an attorney to draft a settlement proposal based on the wishes of that one party, regardless of equity or fairness to both spouses, and then submit the biased settlement proposal to the other party to sign. Unfortunately, many attorneys send such proposals based on their client's desire to see if the other party is at first willing to take less than they deserve or let them get away with their share of responsibility for debt obligations. Sadly, many people succumb to the pressure and stress associated with divorce, and simply sign an unfair proposal without having taken the opportunity to have an attorney of their choosing review the document and advise them accordingly. People too often believe that they are "saving money" by doing this instead of spending money on representation. Do not let this happen to you. It can be the biggest mistake a person can make in his or her life.
The importance of a Marital Settlement Agreement cannot be understated. It is a document which governs your future after your divorce. The terms and conditions of the Marital Settlement Agreement are incorporated into an enforceable court order known as a Final Judgment of Divorce which legally binds you regarding, among other things, to custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, and the division of your assets and debts and retirement accounts.
It is very difficult for someone who is not experienced in family law to understand the full extent of what is fair under the law in the wrapping up of a marriage. If you are in the midst of divorce and you receive a Marital Settlement Agreement proposal, it is essential that you take the opportunity to have an experienced matrimonial attorney review the document with your best interests in mind and advise you regarding the same. Your future and your children's future may depend on it.