Divorce settlement agreements must be drafted with care

It has become customary in contract of all kinds to include a provision that no representations have been made unless expressly written in the contract and that the terms of the contract cannot be modified except in a writing signed by both parties. Called "integration clauses," these provisions prohibit the introduction of oral or other evidence as to the parties' intent in forming the contract. The court may only look to the contract itself for its meaning and the terms of its modification.

In divorce settlement agreements, such provisions may become problematic. If not carefully crafted, it may prevent the ordinary operation of divorce law. One example that commonly arises is in the termination or modification of spousal maintenance, formerly known as "alimony." The divorce statutes allow for the termination or modification of spousal maintenance in the event of changing financial circumstances, remarriage of the recipient, the death of either party, or the like. If an integration clause was not crafted with sufficient care and attention, or simply included without much thought as to the potential consequences, then it may stop the application of the divorce law to your case. In that event, one may find himself under continuing obligation to pay spousal maintenance to an ex-spouse who has since remarried! Perhaps you chose your spouse unwisely. Choose your attorney with care.

For a recent case dealing with this issue, click here

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