I need marriage separation advice on handling a separation agreement.
We signed a separation agreement after my wife left the marital home. We are mortgage partners on various properties that we both had money deposited into accounts to cover the mortgages and taxes on each property.
She recently sent me a notarized agreement that she was no longer going to contribute to our mortgages.
I cannot afford this on my own and am looking for marriage separation advice on what my legal recourse is?
This answer only includes general divorce help for men since I am only licensed to practice in Oklahoma and am thus unable to provide advice on divorce laws in your state.
Your separation agreement is a legal contract that binds the two of you to its terms. In most jurisdictions you can draft a separation agreement's terms to most any issue normally covered in a divorce action such as division of property and debt, as well as child custody and visitation.
First, I would look to the agreement to see if it speaks to who is awarded possession of your real property and who is awarded the debt associated with each piece of real property.
If the agreement awards you the debt, you’re likely stuck with it under the contract. Likewise, if the agreement awards the debt to your wife, she’s stuck with it.
If the agreement doesn’t speak to the debt, then you may need to make an argument based in contract law regarding interpretation of the contract including the intent of the parties to the contract or look to divorce law for guidance.
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Generally, property and debt acquired during the marriage is considered part of the marital estate and will be divided equitably by the court. Your homes and the debt associated therewith, if purchased during the marriage, would be considered marital and belong equally to you and your wife.
Your argument could be that as such, your wife should not be allowed to simply walk away from the debt and leave you paying the bill because she decided she didn’t want to pay for it any longer.
If your separation agreement speaks to the debt issue, you may be able to bring an action against her pursuant to contract law. If your separation agreement does not speak to the debt issue, you can make an argument that the debt is marital and should be equitably divided. To get there though, you may need to consider biting the bullet and filing for divorce.
Now, you can agree to take the debt, but you may also want to seek an agreement wherein your wife foregoes her interest in the properties. That way you can sell them if needed.
Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion on marriage separation advice, I urge you to contact a divorce lawyer.