Can parts of a Separation Agreement be changed with just caused after 5 years of divorce?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can parts of a Separation Agreement be changed with just caused after 5 years of divorce?

I have been divorce in NC for over 5 years. I have 3
children, ages, 21, 18, 16 with joint custody on the
youngest. In the separation agreement I signed under
emotional distress after being married 21 years of emotional
abuse, It was stated I would pay 1/2 of my children’s college
expenses and would not live with anyone of the opposite
sex while I still have my underage children in my home. I
am working 2 jobs, struggling to keep my house and my
youngest to stay in the school she wants to attend. She
cannot go to the school under her father’s address. If I want
to continue for her to graduate in 2 years I need to have my
current boyfriend of over a year move in to help with
expenses. Can I ask the court to change this in the
agreement and also the paying 1/2 of college expenses of 3
children since I cannot afford it?
Thank you for your advise.
Laura Prohaska

Asked on April 15, 2018 under Family Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately you will not be able to change an agreement you voluntarily entered into for "just cause." (And note: "emotional distress" does not invalidate the agreement--people sign all sorts of agreements under emotional distress or tough circumstances all the time, and the law does not consider the fact that you were under emotional stress to make the agreement not voluntary.)
People have changes in circumstances, life reversals, economic stress, etc. all the time. The law does not consider your personal circumstances or needs valid grounds to change or terminate an agreement, because if it did, contracts would not be binding: they could be changed whenever one of the parties needed a change. People could not count on the agreements they entered into, since the other side could change them whenever they showed a need to do so. However, the whole point of a contract--including a separation agreement, since that is what it is: a contract--is that they are binding on the parties to them regardless of what happens in each parties' life or each parties' respective economic situation. An agreement, including a separation agreement, is binding even if it imposes hardship on you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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