Separation agreements are written agreements that many married couples make when they separate intending to end their marriage. While reaching an agreement is purely optional and voluntary, they are common because of their usefulness. They address critical issues of money, bills, property, and child custody to allow the family to transition to their new normal with some level of stability and predictability.
There are a lot of moving pieces when a marriage ends, and there are times that people regret the terms of their agreement or have changed their minds. Unfortunately for those people, a properly executed separation agreement is a legally binding contract. This means that a spouse can bring a non-compliant spouse before a judge to seek “enforcement” of the terms of the agreement. The consequences of violating the terms of an agreement can be harsh and can ultimately result in the violating spouse having to pay money damages.
When Can an Agreement Be Changed or Invalidated?
The fact that a person changes his or her mind later does not excuse a person’s failure to follow the agreement. Instead, the person challenging the agreement has an uphill climb, and there are limited circumstances in which an agreement can be changed or invalidated:
- The agreement doesn’t meet the requirements to be considered valid. Separation Agreements must be in writing, signed, and notarized in North Carolina.
- Both parties voluntarily agree to change the agreement. A separation is a new and fluid situation, so people often find themselves tweaking their agreement to reflect their financial realities and whether the parenting arrangements have been working.
- It can be demonstrated that the agreement was made by fraud.
- The complaining party was under duress or pressure to reach the agreement. Voluntariness is a critical element of any agreement, so a strong showing that a spouse did not voluntarily enter the agreement can invalidate the agreement. Examples are domestic violence or threats of violence against the other spouse or children, which forced a spouse into the “agreement.”
- That important information was withheld or kept from the complaining spouse at the time of the agreement.
- The agreement runs contrary to the children’s best interests. Courts are not bound to agreements that are not in a child’s best interest. For example, parents cannot agree that a noncustodial parent is excused from paying any child support for the child forever. The law requires parents to financially support their children.
- The agreement violates the law or runs contrary to public policy. Examples are agreements that try to forgive debts, assign the debt to third parties, or put a spouse in a position to rely on public assistance.
New Direction Family Law
A separation agreement can give you stability and peace of mind during a hard time in your life. If you are separating and would like to address the critical issues of property, support, and child custody, we can help you. The attorneys at New Direction Family Law are experienced professionals who understand how to create thorough, binding agreements to protect your interests. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Let us help you. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.