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Separation Agreements: Not for Do-It-Yourselfers

First, a request; please don’t use a separation agreement from the internet. “Do-It-Yourself” legal documents, whether posted as templates or as samples by people that mean well, are not problem-solvers. They are problem-causers. We frequently see clients with separation agreements they believed were well-constructed and fit their particular situation, but in reality, the document was a huge and financially costly mistake.

The problem with online legal documents, or copying someone else’s legal documents for your own use, is that they are not tailored to your circumstances. Further, you don’t know how good the document was to begin with, or if you have the entire document! The drafter has not anticipated your legal issues, only their own. You have no way of knowing if important clauses were omitted to fit that person’s needs.

Everyone’s situation is different, and there are a host of issues to be carefully considered in preparing a separation agreement. For example, here are a few questions that could apply to your specific needs, but not the needs of the original drafter:

  • What are the tax ramifications of a particular support or property clause?
  • Is alimony properly structured so that it is enforceable and valid for IRS purposes?
  • Are property transfers (particularly retirement accounts) free from taxes and penalties?
  • What additional documents are needed?
  • Are pensions properly split?
  • How is this different for military retirement?
  • Is child support correctly calculated and set forth in accordance with N.C. law?
  • Is the visitation schedule appropriate and practical?
  • How will the document be enforced, and what are the costs associated with enforcement?
  • What about titles and deeds?
  • Health insurance and COBRA?
  • Are there life insurance and estate issues?

Legal documents are not “one-size fits all,” which is why they must be tailored by an experienced attorney after consultation and analysis of the issues and goals for that client. Your Charlotte divorce attorney can anticipate problems, is aware of changes in the law, and will recommend needed terms. Equally important, the attorney will ensure the document is properly executed and legally enforceable.

Copying a separation agreement from the internet may seem like a way to save money, but in reality, it typically costs the parties much more when they have to modify or rescind the faulty, incomplete, or improperly executed document. Enforcement of defective separation agreements is particularly problematic, typically costing both parties far in excess of the cost to draft an agreement correctly in the first place.

Don’t try to make someone else’s divorce parameters fit your needs. At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we are ready and able to efficiently negotiate and prepare your separation agreement. If you are in need of practical, honest counsel, call our Charlotte family law attorneys at (704) 321-0031, or contact us as early as possible so that we can help you. We proudly serve clients in Charlotte, Weddington, Boone and the surrounding areas.