Is Our Agreement a Legal Contract?

Often, agreements between spouses are the result of what attorneys sometimes call the “kitchen table” approach. Husband and wife know their separation and divorce is inevitable, so they sit down, without attorneys, and decide how they want to divide their assets. Many times, these “kitchen table” agreements result in a formal, signed document, which then leads to a final judgment of divorce. This is certainly the least expensive way to get divorced. What happens, however, if the written document is not an agreement on all issues relative to your divorce? Will this agreement be upheld in court?

A recent court case focused on the issue of partial agreements and whether or not these “contracts” are modifiable. In this case, the court found that the written agreement was “not a final agreement as to property issues” because it did not dispose of all issues relating to the property of the parties; it only dealt with which spouse would reside in which home following their physical separation. The court did not believe that the agreement adequately expressed the parties’ intent with respect to their property, and thus, it was modifiable.

The moral of the story: if you want to resolve your divorce at the “kitchen table,” make sure you and your spouse think of everything. The more detail you include in your written agreement, the better chance you have that this contract will be enforceable and non-modifiable.