The Overlap Of Contract Law And Your Family Law Case
You are probably well aware that people sign contracts every day for an infinite number of things. Purchasing clothing, food, a home and even a car all involve some type of contract.
What you may not know is that principles of contract law also govern many aspects of your family case. Most people are familiar with a prenuptial agreement that may be signed prior to your marriage and identifies what assets and liabilities (debts) are owned by you and your future spouse moving forward. This agreement is a legally binding contract, and your spouse can sue you for breach of contract if you violate any of the terms contained in the prenuptial agreement.
Similarly, if you and your spouse decide that your marriage is irretrievably broken and you want a divorce, you may enter into a separation and property settlement agreement with your spouse. This agreement will divide assets and debts amongst you and your spouse, and may also address timesharing and child support if you have any minor children, as well as spousal support or alimony. Like a prenuptial agreement, a separation and property settlement agreement is a contract and must be abided by.
However, in order to be legally binding, you and your spouse must enter into any family law agreement according to basic contract principles. This includes the mutual intent on the part of both you and your spouse to be bound by the provisions contained in the contract. To ensure that your family law agreement is legally enforceable and does not waive any of your rights, you should consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney—like those at the DiPietro Family Law Group—before signing any agreement with your spouse or ex-spouse.
Finally, even if you were never married but you had children with a now ex-significant other, you will likely establish a custody, timesharing and child support agreement known as a parenting plan with your ex. You and the other parent of your children can reach this agreement together, with or without the help of a mediator and/or attorney; or, if you two (2) cannot agree, the court will work out a parenting plan following a final hearing in your case. And, you guessed it, parenting plans (like prenuptial and property settlement agreements) are legally binding contracts.
Moreover, because the majority (if not all) of these family law agreements will be incorporated into an Order of the court, you will not only be in breach of contract if you violate any terms of the agreement but you will also be in violation of a court Order. This can lead to serious consequences, including the judge finding you in contempt of court which may be penalized by fines and even jail time.
If you are considering divorce and want to draft a settlement agreement or need to develop a parenting plan for minor children, you should speak with a qualified family law attorney at the DiPietro Family Law Group. Our attorneys can review the facts of your specific situation and will fight for your rights and the outcome you desire. We have decades of experience representing clients in all types of family law issues and are here to help you!
Call us today to schedule a consultation at (703) 370-5555 or visit us online.
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