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LegalGems
LegalGems, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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I signed an alimony agreement with my ex-wife in NC almost 1

Customer Question

I signed an alimony agreement with my ex-wife in NC almost 1 year ago. It was a 4-year agreement paying her $2350 per month, so I am almost 1 year into it. We have no kids.
Also in the agreement, I gave her all of our savings, which was all of my accumulation, of over $60,000. She also kept both of our houses, sold both of them, and walked away with close to $150,000 in profit from both of those. I figure when this is all done, I will have paid her close to $400,000. She makes close to as much money as I do. I make $132,000 per year with no bonuses this year.
I signed this agreement outside of court, because I left her for someone else and was caught. While I want to take care of her, I signed this agreement without thinking because I wanted to get on with my life. What are the chances that I could get my alimony payments reduced or stopped altogether? This is all profit for her, because she has a great job and makes close to as much money as I do, not to mention she cashed in on both the houses and the savings. Thank you!
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Was the agreement incorporated into a court judgment?

Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

* you mention it was signed outside of court, but one can still incorporate it in the final judgment, so if you could just clarify that, thanks.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

While I wait for your response, I am going to assume this has not been incorporated into a final decree. So what that means, is that the separation agreement is binding based on contract law, and not upon the divorce decree. This means that any violations can result in a breach of contract suit, but not in contempt charges.

However, in order for a settlement agreement to be binding, both parties must have their signatures notarized. Here is that statute:

§ 52-7. Validation of certificates of notaries public as to contracts or conveyances between husband and wife. Any contract between husband and wife coming within the provisions of G.S. 52-6, executed prior to the first day of January, 1955, acknowledged before a notary public and containing a certificate of the notary public of his conclusions and findings of fact that such conveyance is not unreasonable or injurious to the wife, is hereby in all respects validated and confirmed, to the same extent as though said certifying officer were one of the officers named in G.S. 52-6.

http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_52/GS_52-7.pdf

Separation agreements can be voided if they are the result of fraud, coercion, ignorance or lack of mental capacity but that is rare.

The court may determine that the agreement is inherently unfair, but that really varies by judge, as it is discretionary. So one would want to check the record of the local judge to see how s/he has ruled in the past.

This is called docket searching:

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2011/may_june/investigating_court_docket_databases.html

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Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I do not know the answer to that question, but I do not think it has been incorporated into a court judgement. I don't see anything about a court judgement in the agreement. We do have both of our signatures notarized on the agreement. Technically, since it's North Carolina, we are not even divorced yet because you have to be separated for 1 year. I don't know if that helps. What would the difference be if I were in breach of contract, rather than in contempt?
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Contempt actually allows the court to put the party that is in violation of a court order in jail- so long as it is a knowing and willful violation of a court order (and if one has an ability to pay, that would be considered wilful)

Since the matter is still pending, it can be brought to the court's attention but there are 2 problems with that:

1. the court will typically assume that an agreement that both parties agreed to is fair, unless there is a basis for disproving that presumption

2. normally to change an alimony agreement, there would be need of changed circumstances - based on the circumstances as they existed when it was executed, versus now.

It is possible, if only one side, or neither side, was represented by an attorney, to challenge it based on that, but that really does come down to the judge- some judges take the opinion that the party should have hired an attorney and by failing or choosing not to, they have to deal with what they agreed to. Others will see it as a sort of "uninformed consent" and disallow it, especially if it is an excessively and obviously unfair agreement.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 6 months ago.

Hello again; just checking in to see how things worked out;
if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to me here on Just Answer.
Thanks!

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