Statute of Limitations on Separation Agreements

By Beverly Bird

Contracts don't typically expire unless an expiration date is included as a provision, or the law imposes a statute of limitations. Separation agreements are enforceable as contracts even if you don't ultimately divorce. There's typically no statute of limitations, so if you've signed one, you may be stuck with its terms.


A signed agreement can govern the terms of your separation indefinitely. You don't have to get divorced; the terms of the agreement will continue to prevail nonetheless. In fact, as a binding contract, your agreement can remain enforceable even after you divorce. However, your divorce decree can include language stating that it supersedes the terms of your agreement.

Conversion to Divorce

Assuming you have no problem with your separation agreement, you can merge it with your decree if you later decide to divorce. In some states, this is as simple as submitting a copy to the court along with your divorce paperwork and asking that its terms be incorporated in your decree. Divorce decrees don't expire or have a statute of limitations either.

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The terms of your agreement remain binding, either as a stand-alone contract or merged into your decree, unless either you or your spouse goes back to court to modify them. Depending on the wording in your agreement, you might not be able to change the terms regarding alimony or property division, but custody and child support provisions can always be altered later if there's a change of circumstances.

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Unconscionable Divorce Agreement


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How Long Does a Legal Separation Take?

Legal separation comes in two forms -- separation by agreement, or separation by judicial process. Which type of separation you're eligible for generally depends on where you live. Some states allow for separation by judicial process and others do not. In either case, the speed with which you can become officially separated depends on how quickly you and your spouse can iron out a resolution of the issues involved in your marriage.

What Is a Binding Contract for Divorce?

Whenever you sign something in the process of your divorce, it’s usually binding. Whether it is a contract depends on the nature of the document. A divorce complaint or petition is binding because you’re swearing to the facts it contains, but it's not a contract. Contracts obligate the signers to take or abstain from taking certain actions.

Can Divorce Papers Be Rescinded Once Signed?

Your ability to rescind divorce papers after signing them depends a great deal on exactly what you signed and what you want to take back. If you signed a divorce complaint or petition and then decide to stop the divorce process, it’s usually not a complicated procedure. However, if you signed a marital settlement agreement ending your marriage, and if you no longer want to abide by the divorce terms to which you agreed, you should speak with an attorney. Rescinding a marital settlement agreement is much more difficult and you probably could not accomplish it without professional help.

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