Reviewing your Divorce Agreement may seem like an unnecessary exercise once all the decisions have been made and agreed to, but it is actually a very important part of the Settlement/Divorce process. Couples come to mediation because they want to keep the cost down and don’t want to use attorneys to negotiate uncomplicated Divorce Agreements.
Whether couples use attorneys for Agreement review or not, I ask them to please come back for a one hour review session with me, so I can review with them the document they are signing. It’s important to not only understand the legalese in your Settlement/Separation Agreement but to review the terms and the impact they will have.
A Settlement Agreement stops the economic marital clock from ticking. You no longer have an interest in your spouse’s assets or debts including retirement plans other than what has been agreed to. No longer will you inherit from your spouse. No longer would a joint asset, such as real estate pass to a surviving spouse by operation of law. I will explain to you options you have to hold real estate and other assets post divorce. That’s just a small example of what is discussed with you in the review session. I will also notarize your documents, make sure you initial and sign the Agreement in the appropriate places. Also, this is your last chance to make any change to the Agreement. Remember, the Settlement/Separation Agreement is a legally binding agreement, describing the terms under which you will live by as you move forward.
Sometimes couples go to attorneys to have them review the Settlement/Separation Agreement and don’t return for a review and signing session because they feel they really don’t need the “extra” session. They feel It is redundant since the attorneys have already reviewed it, right?. They will then go ahead and sign the Agreement on their own.
Let me tell you what can go wrong. A couple I worked with had gone to attorneys for review, they signed the agreement, had it notarized and went their separate ways. A week later, I received a call from the wife saying the husband hadn’t paid her the $100,000 buyout as the Agreement dictated because he said he needed a few more days to get the money. At this point it had been a week and he was still saying he needed more time.
When I conduct the signing session with the couple, I make sure the documents are signed and checks are exchanged. By not having a review session, they might have saved themselves my hourly fee, but the wife never received the $100,000 buy out. With the agreement already signed, she would have to spend money on lawyers to figure out how to get the husband to give the wife the $100,000 the agreement said she was supposed to get when she signed. This could all have been avoided by having a review session with me.
The takeaway here is don’t skimp on a few hundred dollars. The review session is money well spent. I make sure everything in your Divorce Agreement gets done and done right when you sign the Agreement. It’s what my clients jokingly call “One Stop Shopping.”
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