Those who are going through a divorce may be tempted to bypass the court system and put together their own divorce settlement agreement. Unfortunately, this option may not be as successful as the couple thinks.
Various issues can arise that negate the agreement, as recently discussed in a publication in the Huffington Post. Three specific examples that are most likely to impact divorcing couples include:
- Limitations on legal rights. Any language within the agreement that attempts to limit the ability of a parent to collect child support would likely invalidate the agreement. Parents are legally required to provide financial assistance towards the rearing of their children. Furthermore, courts are allowed to consider the “best interest of the child,” a legal standard that includes the review of various factors to better ensure the child is placed in the best possible situation. Any attempt to limit that consideration would weaken the agreement.
- Thwarting formalities. Legal formalities must be followed. A failure to do so results in an agreement that is likely unenforceable. Formalities like official signatures from each party and signatures of legal counsel representing each party are generally required.
- Finality. Make sure the agreement is signed off by a judge as a final judgment. A failure to do so can result in an agreement that is very difficult to enforce. The ability to use court enforcement is generally only allowed for judicial orders, not contractual agreements. A failure to have the document signed off as a final judgment will likely result in a contractual agreement, which can be much more difficult to enforce.
Those who are tempted to put together their own agreements in an effort to maintain privacy may want to consider mediation. Unlike traditional litigation, these proceedings are generally kept private.
Regardless of the reason behind a desire to navigate one’s own divorce settlement agreement, it is still wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney can review the proposed agreement to see if all necessary protocol is followed, better ensuring the agreement would survive a future challenge. An attorney can also provide some guidance to help ensure your interests are protected during the divorce.