The 2009 Court of Appeals case Sluder v. Sluder addresses this very issue. Husband signed a statement that was handwritten promising to pay Wife $1,000.00 per month in spousal support. The handwritten statement was as follows: “I Gary M. Sluder pay to my wife Christina, the sum of One Thousand Dollars a month in spousal support.” The trial court found that Husband agreed to pay Wife $1,000.00 per month so she would have proof of income to rent an apartment. The trial court ruled in favor of the Wife and ordered Husband to pay Wife $11,000.00 for the previous eleven months. Husband appealed the ruling of the trial court on the basis that the agreement was not enforceable because the agreement was not signed by both parties before a certifying officer. The Court of Appeals ruled that the statement was not valid because it was not notarized before a certifying officer. North Carolina General Statute § 52-10.1 governs support agreements made in the context of a parties’ separation. The Statute states in part: “Any married couple is hereby authorized to execute a separation agreement not inconsistent with public policy which shall be legal, valid and binding in all respects; provided, that the separation agreement must be in writing and acknowledged by both parties before a certifying officer as defined in North Carolina General Statute 52-10(b). Such certifying officer must not be a party to the contract.”
The moral of this story is agreements between married and/or separated persons can be complicated and confusing. The best course of action before signing an agreement of any sort is to consult an attorney.
The legal precedent established by cases such as Sluder v. Sluder is always subject to change due to action by the North Carolina General Assembly, decisions by a higher court, or legislative action taken by the Congress of the United States of America. Therefore, it is always imperative to seek the advice of legal counsel that is apprised and familiar with the law as it relates to your case.
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