Reviewing and Signing Documents in Your Divorce Action
During a divorce proceeding, you will undoubtedly be presented with numerous documents setting forth your rights, obligations and ultimately your settlement terms (unless there is a trial). Some documents will require your signature and/or your compliance. ALL of the documents will require your clear understanding. While it is your attorney’s job to ensure this understanding, it is YOUR job to advise your attorney, and ask any questions regarding terms, procedures, or other issues in your divorce that you do not understand. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.
The consequences of not fully understanding or carefully reviewing documents to be signed can be financially and otherwise costly. Often, a client will be made to review several drafts of a document prior to executing the final version, whether it be an affidavit for a motion or a Stipulation of Settlement. This can understandably be tiresome, and it is sometimes a client’s inclination to hastily scan the later drafts, without the attention and vigilance given to prior versions. The rule of thumb is to review every line of any document you sign. Once you sign a legal document, you are held to any obligations set forth therein (with the exception of those obligations that may be modified if you meet certain legal criteria).
Many post judgment litigations are commenced by individuals who failed to: diligently review documents signed; did not bother to ask questions; or wanted the litigation over so badly that they merely just acquiesced to what was put in front of him/her, only to regret it later. These individuals often do not prevail in the post judgment litigations. Courts are unimpressed with positions such as: a lack of understanding of the document signed or, the most audacious of them all.......that the party did not read the document before he/she signed it.