Dangers of DIY Property Settlement Agreements in Virginia

When couples are faced with dividing their assets and debts in the midst of divorce, or determining what to do about the household bills or the jointly titled house, property settlement agreements (PSA) are excellent tools that give people control over the outcomes and frequently pave the way for an uncontested divorce.  Indeed, they can be used to settle and resolve many-if not all- of the claims and issues between the parties, thereby reducing the likelihood of stressful and costly litigation.      

In such cases, it can be tempting to Google search and download an online form or to sit at the home computer and draw up a contract without the aid or guidance of an attorney. But beware! Such contracts do not always save people from additional costs or stress. In fact, they can have the opposite effect.

True Case in Point

Just last month in the case of Moy v. Moy, the Virginia Court of Appeals analyzed a property settlement agreement that expressly stated, “the husband agrees to pay the wife $350.000 a month to help with household bills until the divorce is final or wife obtains a full time job, whichever comes first.”  This sort of provision is common, providing financially dependent spouses with security as they attempt to reestablish their lives with a fresh start.  And the above language seems plain enough.  But the husband in this case refused to pay his wife.  Why?  He claimed that the provision was unenforceable because it did not state when his support payments would commence.  Consequently, the wife not only had to litigate to enforce an otherwise clear property settlement agreement at trial, but she also had to pay to defend a costly appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals. 

Discuss Your PSA With An Experienced Family Law Attorney

This costly litigation need not have occurred, for these are the very things a well-drafted property settlement agreement should protect against.  Smith Strong, PLC family law attorneys are familiar with drafting, interpreting, and critiquing property settlement agreements.  We bring the full breadth of our expertise to every case, understanding that attention to detail – or the absence of a few words in a property settlement agreement – can be the difference of thousands of dollars for our clients.  So instead of simply signing a property settlement agreement that was drafted by your spouse’s attorney, or pulling something off the internet, set up a consult with one of our attorneys who will give a fair and honest assessment of your case and establish a plan of action to make sure your rights are protected.