Why You Should Never Make “Side-Deals” for Divorce Property Settlement Agreements
One of the most important documents you will negotiate for, and sign, before your divorce can be granted is what is known as the property settlement agreement (PSA). The property settlement agreement will outline your financial and parental rights and obligations following the divorce, and decides key divorce issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and division of marital assets and debts.
Any time you are deciding such critical issues, it is important that you retain the counsel of an experienced Morristown divorce attorney. Your attorney can hep you negotiate for the terms most important to you, while ensuring that any agreement you sign is fair to you, and in your best interests.
Once you and your Morris County divorce lawyer have negotiated for and settled on equitable terms for your property agreement, before your judgement of divorce can be be granted, you must testify to the court that you are not signing the PSA under duress, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and that you believe the agreement to be fair. If you have any doubts about the terms of your PSA and their fairness to you, or have been pressured or coerced into signing the document by your spouse, now is the time to speak up. PSA’s are extremely difficult to alter once the judgement of divorce has been granted, and you will not be allowed to do so after your divorce just because you think maybe you could have gotten a better deal, or a particular term of your PSA turns out to be not so great for you.
Side-Deals During Property Settlement Negotiation
Now that we have a better understanding of what your Property Settlement Agreement is, and how important it is to your financial and parental future, let’s take a look at the recent case of Corman v Corman, and how making a side-deal with your spouse which is not included in the terms of your property settlement agreement can come back to bite you.
In the case in question, the wife waived her right to equitable distribution for certain real estate properties owned by the husband. Her attorney specifically advised her that doing so was extremely unfavorable to her, but the wife insisted. The PSA was then drawn up, and the wife gave testimony to the court that she understood the terms of her PSA and agreed to it entirely.
One year after the divorce, the wife filed a motion with the courts to re-negotiate certain terms of the PSA, including the real estate properties she had previously waived her rights to. The wife then testified that she had agreed to waive her rights to those properties because of a side-deal she had made with her husband. The husband had pushed the wife to file for divorce so that he could file for bankruptcy without damaging his wife’s credit, and had stated his intention to keep the family intact even after the divorce.
Apparently, he had not lived up to his end of the bargain, and the wife was now seeking court intervention in the matter. Unfortunately for her, the court disagreed with her position, citing well-established contract law principals. The court found that the wife was bound to the terms of her agreement, as the terms of her side-deal with her husband were not present in the PSA itself. Since those terms were not present in the PSA itself, they do not provide a basis for reforming said PSA.
As you can see, it is critical that any agreements you make with your spouse regarding the terms of your divorce are present in your PSA. If your spouse fails to follow the terms of your PSA, you have legal recourse. If they fail to follow the terms of any verbal agreement you may have, you have little to no recourse.
Contact a Morris County Divorce Property Settlement Agreement Attorney Today
If you are considering a divorce, or are in the process of divorcing now, it is extremely important that you have an experienced Randolph, NJ divorce attorney to represent your interests throughout the process, but most importantly during the drafting of your Property Settlement Agreement. Your property settlement agreement is legally binding, and extremely difficult to alter once in place, so it is critical that the one you sign is the one that properly protects your financial and parental future.
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, we practice exclusively family law. This allows us to focus on the complexities of divorce law, stay up-to-date on New Jersey divorce law, and provide you with highly experienced and professional legal counsel for any divorce or family law related matter.
Do not risk signing a property settlement agreement which is unfair to you, and damaging to your financial future. Our lawyers are ready to speak with you today in a free and confidential consultation, and begin crafting a strategy with you to ensure you sign the property settlement agreement which you need and deserve. Contact us online or through our Morristown office at 973-840-8970 to speak with our family law team today.