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AttorneyTom
AttorneyTom, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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My daughter is trying to divorce her verbally abusive husband.

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My daughter is trying to divorce her verbally abusive husband. Last night they sat down and "agreed" to visitation. They wrote everything down and her husband said he would take it home, type it up, and they would meet at the notary the next morning. She arrived with their 3 children (all under the age of 3) to sign. The children were fussy and she trusted him and did not read what he wrote, she just signed it. When she got back home and read the papers he had written that he would have the children Monday - Friday and there would be no child support. She does not work (something they had agreed upon when the first child was born) and does not have the money for a lawyer. What are her options?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  AttorneyTom replied 5 years ago.
Hello! Thank you for bringing your question to JustAnswer! I'm T-USA and I'll be happy to provide some valuable information!

A written agreement between parents regarding visitation, by itself, is not sufficient to establish an enforceable parenting plan. A parenting plan must be submitted for court approval. Only after a court approves a parenting plan may it be properly enforced. Now, a court may look to a prior written agreement to see what the parents have been doing regarding children, essentially creating a starting point for the court. In other words, a court might use an agreement to determine how the parents have been handling matters and to evaluate the effectiveness of that arrangement. However, an agreement procured through fraud would not generally hold much weight.

If one parent has acted to mislead or take advantage of another parent, the parent may wish to petition to establish court-ordered visitation. The court then reviews the matter in light the child's best interests and sets a visitation schedule according to those interests.

It's worth noting that, even if a matter passed properly through the courts, if a settlement is achieved through fraudulent means (such as changing the terms behind another party's back), that would provide a basis to petition to vacate the settlement.

In any case, you will want to retain an attorney. I understand the financial hardship of doing so. The good news is that there are discount/free legal clinics available to people who cannot afford attorneys. Further, it's possible to petition the court to require a spouse to pay another spouse's attorney's fees, and that can provide relief as well.
Local Legal Clinics: http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/probono/directory.html

Just let me know if you need any clarification!

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