We get a lot of inquiries from potential clients wondering if they should sign a document.
The most common documents in question are “Waivers of citation”, Final Divorce Decrees, Settlement offers, Paperwork in Attorney General Child Support Cases, leases, modifications of contracts and sales agreements.
First of all, if you don’t totally and completely understand the document and everything in it, the answer is NO. At least not until you can do some research on your own, consult with someone who has the knowledge to help you, or get a written clarification of the terms.
If a document of any kind is ambiguous, you should not sign it as it is written. Any document with terms that are subject to two or more meanings can cause trouble later. And it may be expensive trouble!
If the document that you are wondering about is part of a lawsuit of ANY kind, signing it can have long-term effects. For instance, some settlement agreements are binding. In these cases, you should be sure that what you are agreeing to is what you can live with forever or for many years, especially if the case involves divorce, custody, visitation, or child support.
Sales agreements and service contracts of any kind need to be read carefully. You should pay special attention to sections that relate to canceling the contract, default, and contract term. Many contracts are very one-sided. Merely “skimming” over the terms that relate to “trouble” down the line isn’t good enough. You should know what would happen if things don’t work out as planned.
Having a legal consult can save you a lot of time, money and tears later on. Get it straight from the beginning. The time to consult an attorney is before you sign something that you shouldn’t have agreed to. The attorney will need to review the document thoroughly; just hearing about it briefly by phone or email is not enough to advise you properly.
Don’t give away your bargaining power by being passive and not looking out for yourself!