Can the Judge Reject a Fair Separation Agreement?
Your separation agreement is a very important document. You can create a fair separation agreement on your own or by working with an experienced divorce mediator. A Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge will have to approve it to finalize your divorce, even if you are filing a joint petition. A judge may only reject a separation agreement if the terms aren’t fair to both spouses or if it is not in the best interests of the child.
A judge can also reject your agreement if it appears one of you signed the agreement under coercion or duress. While this is not common, it can happen. The Probate and Family Court ensures divorce judgments are fair to both spouses and both spouses willingly agreed to the terms of the divorce. The Court wants to make sure the rights of both spouses are protected. Doing so reduces the chance that the couple will need to appear in court again for a modification or appeal. Court resources are limited, and making sure the agreement is mutual and fair in the first place can help preserve those resources down the road.
Generally, a judge will accept a fair separation agreement if you and your spouse both signed it willingly. The judge will ask you some questions about your agreement at your divorce hearing. You may be asked to clarify any ambiguities or elaborate on some of the terms. The judge will pay particular attention to any issues regarding your children because the Court has a duty to ensure the agreement looks out for their best interests. The judge is also trying to assess whether the agreement fairly serves you both. He or she may also be making sure you both signed it willingly and you both understand all the terms and conditions. Including a clause in the agreement that states you both created and signed the agreement in good faith can also demonstrate this.
A fair separation agreement should be reasonable to you and your spouse and beneficial for your child. Working with an experienced Massachusetts divorce mediator can help ensure your agreement is fair, making it likely to be approved by the judge with no changes needed.
Do you have questions about creating a solid separation agreement? If so, Mediation Advantage Services can help. Experienced in divorce mediation, family law attorney Polly A. Tatum can help you and your spouse navigate the mediation process, ensuring you the highest chance of success. Based in historic Worcester with a satellite office in Northboro, MA, our firm serves all cities and towns throughout Massachusetts and Worcester County including, Auburn, Paxton, Leicester, Sutton, Grafton, Shrewsbury, Westboro, Northboro, Southboro, Holden, Sterling, Princeton, Worcester, Charlton, Millbury, Dudley, Spencer, Brookfield, Sudbury, Natick, Framingham, Hopkinton, Milford, Blackstone, Leominster, Fitchburg, Acton, Jefferson, Barre, Oakham, Cambridge, Newton, Marlboro, Lancaster, Bolton, and Hudson. Call our office at (508) 795-1557, fill out our online form, today to schedule your Complimentary Mediation Success Planning Session. You can also sign up for our eNewsletter or download our free e-book for more information regarding divorce in Massachusetts.