Many couples believe that they can prepare their own separation agreement or that they don't need to have an attorney review the agreement before they sign it. As a result, they make major mistakes that an attorney would be able to identify quickly. Here are three common mistakes that I see in agreements that individuals have prepared without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
They don't cover all the necessary items.
Many times a couple will only cover the things that are important to them, like child custody and visitation, and leave out important elements. A separation agreement should cover all aspects of the marriage and divorce from who gets what to who pays for what. A sample form that you find on-line simply cannot get you to identify all the issues that need to be covered. Leaving items out of a separation agreement leaves the door open for later court action when you and your spouse are unable to work through the issue.
Issues are only partially addressed.
A couple may determine child custody, visitation and support but leave out important elements like medical insurance or what will happen if the person paying child support dies while the child is still a minor. There are many other issues that you need to make provisions for that go beyond the obvious issue. An experienced attorney will know to ask the what if questions that will make sure you have complete terms in the separation agreement.
Couples make provisions for things that they have no legal responsibility for absent the separation agreement.
I frequently see separation agreements that provide terms about college expenses for a minor child. A parent has no legal responsibility to provide for a child's college expenses and should not assume those responsibilities because of a divorce or separation. I even saw one agreement where the noncustodial parent agreed to buy each child a car of their choosing when they graduated from high school. I told him that I wanted to be adopted and I wanted a Lamborghini. While that is over the top, it does show the danger of not having an agreement reviewed by an attorney before you sign it.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can prepare your own separation agreement and everything will be fine. Before you sign a document that will have long lasting impact on your life, make sure that you at least have it reviewed by an experienced attorney. Contact me today at 757-276-6555 and I will meet with you to either draft a complete separation agreement or review an agreement that you have already had prepared.