MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT UPHOLDS MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT – A LESSON TO BE LEARNED
In a recent case in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Stern & Associates represented a party whose husband was attempting to set-aside a marital settlement agreement that he and his wife had entered into. . The husband argued that the Court should not enforce the Agreement for a number of reasons, including his assertion that the terms of the agreement were unconscionable. Neither party had been represented by an attorney when they entered into the agreement and neither had an independent attorney review the agreement before they signed it, although a mediator reviewed the terms with both of them.
After a one day hearing, a Circuit Court judge denied the husband’s motion and upheld the separation agreement. The judge also awarded our client the legal fees she incurred in defending against the motion finding that the husband’s motion did not have substantial merit and that he was not justified in bringing his motion to set the agreement aside.
The case illustrates an important point that we always stress to our clients and individuals we meet with: do not sign a marital settlement agreement until you have the agreement reviewed by an attorney who represents you. Once you sign an agreement, it is valid and enforceable against you. Although agreements can be set aside by the Court, depending upon the facts of the case, it is difficult to do and most challenges to separation agreements fail. Although some people have “buyer’s remorse” after they sign an agreement and may wish to be relieved from the terms of the agreement, this fact alone will not persuade a court to invalidate the agreement. The fact that a party did not have an attorney representing them at the time the agreement was signed also, in and of itself, will not lead to a court setting aside an agreement.
Prior to signing a marital settlement agreement, if you have not been represented by an attorney during the negotiation of the agreement, it is important to retain independent counsel to review the agreement and advise you of the terms and their ramifications to you. Otherwise, you will likely be required to adhere to the terms of the agreement, no matter how onerous those terms are on you or how unfair they may seem.
Although many people do not want to spend the money to have an attorney review a marital settlement agreement after it has been negotiated, an old adage comes to mind; do not be penny wise and pound foolish. The money you spend on an attorney to review the agreement may save you much more later.
If you have any questions regarding a martial settlement agreement, call our offices at (301) 444-4660.