My estranged wife and I entered into a separation agreement 2 years ago. It was prepared by a friend of hers and it has proven to be very unfair to me. I was not informed of inheritance laws and child support guidelines before it was signed.
It was never filed with the clerk’s office until I filed for divorce this past January. Then her lawyer filed it. I filed on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment, not the agreement that was made.
Is there a time limit on how long an agreement can be held and not filed? How should I proceed?
The laws on separation agreements vary by state and you will need to consult a qualified attorney in your state as to the legal status of your agreement. Generally, informal separation or post-marital agreements are not favored and require specific provisions and consideration to be binding. Conversely, a legal separation by a court order can finally determine marital property rights.
Even if not enforceable, the agreement may be usable to argue the intent of the parties depending upon the exact terms and circumstance of the agreement. If you and she abided by the terms of the agreement during the past two years, her lawyer may attempt to show she relied on the agreement and argue that you also should be bound by its terms out of fairness, referred to as equitable estoppel. These are only some possible issues that arise and your attorney will be able to review your situation fully and advise as to options and strategies for addressing the agreement.
Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.
Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues.