Separating? Divorcing? Do not sign anything your spouse/partner asks you to sign, no matter how innocent it may appear, without consulting an attorney. Let me repeat: do not sign anything without consulting an attorney. Does that sound self-serving? Sure it does. But let me assure you that (1) words matter, even if what you are signing may not technically be a legal contract, or legally enforceable, and (2) because words matter, signing such a document may cost you infinitely more than an hour with an attorney. The following is one example of a recent case of a mother who did take the time to consult with me before signing an agreement proposed by her husband. We will shortly write about two clients who sadly, did not. Divorce is difficult enough without handcuffing yourself to a document you never should have signed.
A young couple married only a few months, separated and went to live with their respective families. The mother gave birth shortly thereafter. A few days later, she visited her husband and her family so that he and his family could meet and hold the baby. As she prepared to depart with the baby, her husband presented her with a document (prepared by his parents), which he insisted she sign before she could leave with the baby. The mother was nursing and was obviously terribly upset by this unexpected turn of events. But even under such severe emotional stress, she refused to sign this document, and departed, knowing she would not be able to nurse her baby until this was resolved.
It was then the mother contacted us, the father's parents also obtained an attorney, and a temporary order hearing was held, and the court ruled the baby's primary legal residence would indeed be with the mother. The court also ruled the father would have generous visitation rights, and must pay child support according to Texas' guidelines based on full-time minimum wage, despite the fact that he had only a part-time minimum wage job.
This positive outcome for our client, the baby's mother, came partially as a result of her difficult decision to refuse to sign a document under significant stress, and seek competent and experienced legal advice. Future blogs will show what happens when clients sign such documents without a complete understanding of the implications of the agreement. Contact us with any questions.