If you or your spouse is considering a divorce, there are some steps that can be taken now to protect both of your assets and your children. A Property Settlement Agreement is a written document which outlines how marital debt, marital property, and child custody will be addressed while the divorce is pending. This document is vital to have as it can save substantial legal fees from having the court make these decisions. However, there are also dangers to these documents.
What do you need to be aware of when entering into a Property Settlement Agreement?
It is a binding contract.
Virginia law is very clear on this matter, a Property Settlement Agreement is a binding contract. Therefore, you have to be very careful in reviewing the terms of the agreement before signing it. These documents may be drafted by a lawyer, and may include provisions that could prove harmful to you down the line. If there are such provisions in the contract, a court will be reluctant to change the provisions of the contract.
A common example of a dangerous provision relates to spousal support. Virginia law allows a Property Settlement Agreement to state that the amount of support may not be modified. That means, in the event that you lose your job and are obligated to pay support, you will not be able to reduce that amount without a prohibitively expensive court battle.
It requires certain provisions to be valid.
Virginia law requires that a Property Settlement Agreement contain specific provisions to be considered valid. Failure to include these provisions may result in the document being declared invalid by a court of law in the future. If you fail to consult with a lawyer during the drafting process, all of your efforts may prove to have been in vain.
It needs to be exhaustive.
Finally, a Property Settlement Agreement needs to address every aspect of your marital property. It needs to address debt, support, custody, visitation, etc. Failure to include a portion of the marital estate into the document may result in bad consequences such as a contested divorce case or the loss of certain retirement assets. It may even make qualifying for Medicaid more difficult.
Why you need a lawyer.
A lawyer is essential in creating a Property Settlement Agreement. For the reasons stated above, Virginia Law is strict about what can or cannot be included in the document. Furthermore, there may be words in the document that can be harmful to you. Therefore, if you are considering a Property Settlement Agreement, consult a lawyer for review prior to signing.