My husband and his ex-wife divorced in December 1999. They ended up moving back in together in January 2000 and they continued to live together until May 2005. In May 2005, they drafted their own version of a “separation agreement” regarding the debt they had accumulated from 1996 -2005 (yes that is correct - they included the time period they were married.) The agreement only listed the debts, the amounts owed and who would take and pay for them. Nothing else. This “agreement”, of course, was not notarized or filed with any court. Our question is, is this “agreement” between them legal and binding? Can either party sue the other for “not complying” with the “terms” even though there aren’t any legal terms in the agreement? If so, is this a civil matter since they were not technically married or is it a family law matter? Thank you.


The separation agreement is not valid if it was not signed AND notarized. It would be considered like a promise of ‘word’.


The agreement is not a valid separation agreement as the parties were not married and were not contracting about martial property. It may be viewed by the courts as a regular contract which still legally binding and is a civil matter outside of family law.


Even if it’s not notarized??


Yes, contracts other than contracts between married persons need not be notarized. In this case the parties to the contract were not married.


That’s good to know. Thanks Erin.


If this is just a contract and in NC statute of limitations on contracts is three years (that time has passed) and there is no language in this agreement regarding specific performance, default remedies or the like, can his ex sue him for specific performance if this doesn’t exist in the agreement? This agreement only lists the debts they had amassed togther from 2000-2005, while living together unmarried, and has nothing else other than the date it was signed and their signatures. Oh, and she just sent him a copy of the agreement and it has his signature notarized but not hers. Is the agreement valid if both signatures aren’t notarized? I think by your responses below notarization is not even required so I don’t think it changes whether it is valid or not does it?

She is threatening this because she wants him to refinance the loan and his credit isn’t good enough right now. She wants her name off of the debt but the agreement between them doesn’t say anything about how long the parties have to “pay off” the debts, or how long they get to get them out of each other’s names, etc. Thank you.


The agreement is a valid contract, and if breached an action for breach can be pursued.
The statute of limitations runs from the time of discovery of breach, and not from the date of the contract itself. Since the parties to the contract were not married, their signatures need not be notarized.


What would constitute a breach if there are no specifics in the agreement other than who would take what debt. There is no time limit, no default provisions, no provision for specific performance, nothing.

They both agreed that they co-mingled their assets into multiple liabilities that totaled $150,000. They were unable to identify who was responsible for each liability. They agreed to divide the liabilities. (Directly from the agreement.)

That is the entire agreement (minus the list of the actual credit card names and account numbers.) Then they signed it.

They also included the $22,000 debt from their 1999 divorce decree in this agreement. She just recently went back to the court and lied and said that he never paid it and the Judge gave it to her again. The Judge wouldn’t even look at their 2005 “agreement”.

He shouldn’t have to pay twice for the same debt. What can be done?


The agreement is a contract which if breached creates an action for the same. The issue is whether the language in the agreement allows the court to determine the parties’ responsibilities and obligations. The judge could not look at the 2005 agreement as he or she was looking towards a division of the marital assets, to which the old agreement does not apply.


Ok, we are confused. There is no language in the agreement other than they both agree which person was taking the particular debt. So, even though they both agreed that the $22,000 from their 1999 divorce decree was now included in the new 2005 agreement they drafted themselves, the Judge didn’t look at the 2005 agreement because they were not married at the time and she decided that agreement doesn’t “modify” the decree even though the parties agreed that it did?

Also, his ex is now claiming she can sue him to force him to refinance the loan that is in both their names (but their 2005 agreement doesn’t say that he has to refinance and get it out of her name) and there is nothing in the agreement that says he has to pay it off in a certain amount of time. It only says that he will “assume” the debt, that’s it.

Does she have any grounds to bring a suit for these issues? What if he stops paying this debt, does she have grounds to bring an action then? She is also claiming her lawyer is bringing these issues to the family law judge but the family law judge wouldn’t look at it the first time around, what would make her look at it again? We are very confused.


I really would need to sit down and take a look at the judges decree and the previous agreement to fully answer your questions. It is easy to confuse the issues with so many documents floating around.

As for the language regarding the assumption of the loan, I would agree that unless language which specifies that the loan must be refinanced and or/ the ex’s name removed, that that loan can remain as is so long as it is timely paid.