A Brief Introduction About the Divorce Agreement
A Divorce Agreement is a legally binding contract that memorializes the terms reached between divorcing or separating couples in case of child support, child custody, alimony/maintenance, and division of property/assets. The agreement goes by many names and is also referred to as a Divorce Settlement Agreement, Separation Agreement, or Marital Settlement/Separation Agreement.
The Document can be used either as a temporary agreement that remains in place until a new agreement in the form of a divorce decree is drafted or as one that is converted into the final divorce decree to remain in place after the case is settled in the court of law. A well-defined Divorce Agreement or a Separation Agreement spells out the marital separation terms in a crisp, clear, and detailed manner. The agreement can be used either by separating spouses who have already reached a settlement in terms of division of assets and child support or by those who are currently negotiating the settlement terms and would like to create an outline for further action.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, a Divorce Agreement can either be a simple fived paged document or a longer one that includes specifics on who gets to keep the family pet and how the artwork owned by the couple be divided. In either case, the agreement aims at noting down the separation terms with utmost clarity, such that the divorcing couple faces the least amount hassle during legal negotiations or trial.
Who Takes the Divorce Agreement – People Involved
The chief parties to a Divorce Settlement Agreement are the separating spouses i.e., the husband and wife, who wish to put an end to legal matrimony. Generally, a divorce settlement also involves divorce attorneys who can help the separating couple negotiate the terms of the settlement and represent them in the court of law as and when the need arises. Alternatively, the separating spouses can also rely upon the services of a third-party mediator to reach a smooth settlement.
Purpose of a Divorce Agreement – Why You Need It
The purpose of the Agreement is to outline and address issues around child and spousal support, division of debts and assets, child custody and parenting time arrangements (including visitation rights), and division of the marital home with utmost clarity. In other words, the contract is the first step towards formalizing the arrangement, adjustment, or other understanding reached between two adults who have chosen to divorce. It serves as a means of lessening or even reducing court intervention in some cases. Alternatively, a well-drafted settlement agreement acts as an outline to impeding divorce negotiations and/or legal trials.
Contents of a Divorce Agreement – Inclusions
The contents of the agreement can vary from case to case. However, at a minimum, a Settlement Agreement should include clear terms on the following:
- Division of Debts and Assets
- Calculation and Payment of Alimony or Marital Support
- Calculation including terms and interval of Payment of Child Support
- Terms relating to Physical and Legal Custody of the Child/Children
- Inclusions on Parenting Plan and detailed Visitation Schedule
In some cases, the agreement could also be more detailed to include the distribution of frequent flier miles, country club memberships, retirement plans, and pension support, insurance support, and so on.
How to Draft a Divorce Agreement – Points to Consider While Preparing the Agreement
Since the agreement could translate into a decree of divorce, it becomes important to draft it well. While the first draft of the agreement can be prepared by either or both parties in consultation with a Divorce Attorney or Mediator, it is important to focus on how it is drafted. A well-defined agreement should be able to spell out all the terms of settlement clearly and cohesively. The agreement should include crucial details such as the date of marriage, the date of separation, the grounds of divorce, names, and ages of minor children, your current living arrangement, and address, in addition to the standard language. Make sure that the agreement doesn’t go against you in any way and that you parse through it in detail before signing on it.
It is advisable to involve a seasoned Divorce Attorney or a trusted third-party mediator while discussing or finalizing the terms of the final divorce settlement. It is also recommended to reach a common ground with your spouse that is favorable for both instead of endlessly arguing on points that favor only one party to the agreement.
Benefits or Drawbacks of a Divorce Agreement
A well-defined Divorce Agreement entails benefits for both parties (separating spouses). In addition to saving hassles, a clearly drafted Divorce Agreement carries several other advantages. It brings structure to the separation and helps the divorcing couple strategically plan and discuss the terms of separation. Similarly, it also helps in saving costs and time involved in legal negotiations while also eliminating the need for court intervention in certain cases.
While there are several benefits of having the contract, it carries almost no drawbacks unless it is lop-sided or drafted in a haphazard manner. A settlement agreement drafted without legal supervision or in favor of only one party could be misleading and can potentially cause havoc in the settlement process. It is thus advisable to draft the agreement prudently and in consultation with a reliable divorce attorney.
What Happens in Case of Violation
A Divorce Agreement is usually the first step in the divorce settlement process and is not necessarily the same as a decree of divorce. It can usually be modified to suit either party during the time of negotiation and even during the trial. If the agreement is converted into a Divorce Decree, it is final and legally binding on both the parties to it. If either party violates the terms of the agreement, they become liable to legal proceedings, including fine and even imprisonment, in some extreme cases.
A Settlement Agreement is a crucial part of a Divorce Case. It lays down the final arrangement in case of separation and provides grounds for negotiation and final settlement. A Divorce Agreement must be well-drafted to includes clear terms on the division of assets, the financial arrangements, and custody rights agreed to be adopted. It should also cover other legal terms between the separating spouses and aid a smooth decree of divorce.