Nothing makes our office happier than to learn that two parties were able to resolve their divorce on their own without the help of attorneys, mediators, or the court. However, sometimes parties are so amicable that they sign an agreement written by themselves that fails to address all the issues in their divorce. This unfortunately can lead to a messy trial years after their divorce was finalized, resulting in both parties unhappy and incurring unnecessary legal expenses.
One reason why you should have an attorney look over your agreement is because often what you think an agreement says, isn’t what it says. For example a common agreement I often see reads as follows:
“Husband shall remain in the marital home. Husband will refinance the marital home and pay half of the equity.”
At first glance, this agreement looks good. It seems like a fair and reasonable agreement that deals with the mortgage, as well as ensures that wife gets her portion of the equity in the home. However, this agreement only works if the following happens:
- Husband is able to refinance the home;
- Husband refinances the home within a reasonable period of time (let’s say three months);
- Husband and Wife agree on the value of the home, and thus agree on the equity;
- Husband pays wife her portion of the equity soon after he refinances (let’s say a month).
Unfortunately, as you can imagine, things don’t always go as planned. Thus, if an experienced family law attorney reviewed the above agreement, he or she would likely revise it to say something like the following:
“Husband shall remain in the marital home. Husband shall refinance the marital home within 60 days of signing this agreement. Within 90 days of refinancing the marital home Husband shall pay the wife $30,000.00 which represents half of the equity in the home. If Husband is unable to refinance or fails to refinance the marital home within 60 days of signing this agreement, then the home will be immediately put up for sale and listed by realtor Mr. X. While the home is listed for sale Husband shall be responsible for all bills, taxes, and expenses related to the marital home. Once the home is sold the parties shall split any equity or liability 50/50 after closing costs and realtor fees. ”
As you can see the above agreement covers all of the issues I raise with the original agreement. This way even if things don’t go as planned, you and your ex have a backup plan. To avoid an unfortunate mistake such as the example above, make the small invest of having an experienced family law attorney look over your agreement.