A Brief Introduction About the Marital Settlement Agreement
A Marital Settlement Agreement is a contract which is made and been used in uncontested divorces that divides property, assets as well as debts of a marriage. It states the rights of both the parties and settles matters relating to child custody and spousal alimony concerning the divorce. This contract is also recognized as a “property settlement agreement,” a “marital separation agreement,” or a Divorce Settlement Agreement.
This agreement might address several legal concerns such as:
- Child custody, visitation rights, as well as child support
- Alimony or spousal support
- Marital property and distribution of assets amid the parties
- Allocation of shared business assets
Who Takes the Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement states the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the two spouses after the divorce. These agreements generally contain property division, child custody, child plans, debt division, spousal support and any additional pertinent issues relating to the divorce. Marital settlement agreements could be entered into at any time before the final judgment. They are usually filed with the final judgment.
In certain divorce proceedings, the individual involved can work out the terms of the divorce in an accommodating manner. They might finalize the many terms in what is known as a “marital settlement agreement.” This would be finalized into a court divorce order when the proceedings are wrapped up.
Marital settlement contracts might be utilized in both divorce and legal separation actions, as the procedure is often very similar for both.
Purpose of the Marital Settlement Agreement
The main purpose of this agreement is to observe any agreements reached between divorcing (or separating) spouses relating to child custody, child support, alimony, also stated as spousal support or maintenance, as well as the division of property.
An uncontested divorce would generally comprise a settlement agreement signed by the husband and wife stating that they agree to its terms. The court would review the agreement and upon approving it, would enter a final decree of divorce depending upon its terms.
However, a contested divorce takes place when a husband and wife cannot or are not able to agree in order to divide their property, custody of the children, visitation arrangements or any additional matter respectively.
Contents of the Marital Settlement Agreement
The agreement expresses the understandings of spouses in a divorce. The document functions as a written record of this understanding so that any forthcoming violations could be identified and remedied.
A marital settlement agreement comprises many of the same terms as a divorce decree, which includes the following:
- Who shall retain possession and use of the marital home
- Who shall be responsible for the expenditures of the marital home (mortgage, utilities, insurance)
- In case of legal separation is converted towards a divorce who would pay for the expenditures of the marital home
- How would assets and debts acquired during the marriage be divided which includes property, financial and retirement accounts, vehicles, insurance, debts, as well as business or corporate interests
- Whether spousal support shall be offered
- Whether or not any spousal benefits, like medical insurance, would continue during the separation and who is liable to pay for them
- The terms and conditions of child support, custody and visitation rights
You must ensure that you include all the terms and agreements made with your former spouse that you want a court to be able to impose in your written marital settlement contract. You must make the terms as specific as possible in order to prevent any dispute or litigation in the future.
If you leave some terms out to be finalized later, the court would not enforce any terms that you did not include in your signed agreement. Also, ensure to cover every possibility as completely as possible. Your agreement must also include a process for negotiating any future disagreements.
When the document is signed, the final marital settlement agreement is binding between the parties. It is usually also incorporated into the final decree of divorce so that it turned out to be as enforceable as any other court order. It might also be merged or partially merged with the divorce decree, which has an effect on the enforceability under law.
How to Draft the Marital Settlement Agreement?
A Marital Settlement Agreement specifies the basis for a couple to proceed with an uncontested divorce. Settlement Agreements also give the parties greater control over the consequences of the termination of their marriage, rather than leaving various decisions to a judge.
The agreement must contain the following:
- Identifying title for the document.
- Identifying information of the spouses, their lawyers, any minor children, and any individual who is appointed to represent the best interest of the children.
- A statement that the parties are getting a divorce and the cause why the divorce is being filed (even if it is a no-fault divorce).
- Identify the property (or assets) that require to be divided as well as how it would be divided. Also, inheritances and additional assets that appear to belong to just one of the spouses might be affected through the divorce under state law or because of how the two of you decide in the direction of dividing the assets.
- How child custody, visitation or parenting time, and child support shall be addressed.
- The amount of spousal support, if any, that would be paid and for how long it is going to be paid. It might also state under what conditions. For instance, until the other spouse remarries or for 6 months.
- The jurisdiction (county and state) where the divorce would take place.
- A clear explanation of how everything is going to be divided, any required forms such as a special warranty deed or quitclaim deed, and the date by which the distribution must be completed.
- A signature line and date for the involved parties as well as their attorney
You must use the Marital Settlement Agreement document if:
- You know where your wife/husband is and you are in contact with him/her
- You and your spouse have settled to get divorced and you have agreed on how to divide your property and assets
- You and your spouse are presently negotiating the terms of your divorce and will like to create a plan for the division
- You and your spouse planning to meet with a divorce attorney together and would like to be organized with an outline for the division of property and assets
If you and your spouse have both agreed to get divorced, and you agree on how to divide your property and assets, you could use this document in order to file for divorce. The agreement might also be utilized to define child custody, visitation, and child support if you have minor kids.
[Also Read: Postnuptial Agreement]
Benefits and Drawbacks of the Marital Settlement Agreement
A marital settlement contract has certain advantages for the reason that it prevents ongoing concerns that could arise after a divorce. When the couple is on the course of getting a divorce, problems and disputes relating to child plans, child custody, property division, debt responsibility as well as division always arise.
While an agreement is not mandatory, a marital settlement contract has advantages like;
- The agreement becomes in writing and it states all the issues that may arise to the divorce, which limits uncertainty.
- The proceedings for divorce shall finish sooner since everything is already mentioned in an agreement
- The spouses may not even have to go to court and the judge could decide the matter by simply reading the agreement which was already been made.
- All the major issues concerning divorce would have already been decided and the use of mediation or trial is not required
In a few cases, marital settlement agreements could be adjusted in the future, particularly for issues concerning child visitation, which could fluctuate over time. Also, it could occasionally take place that fraud or cheating was used by one party when making a settlement agreement.
For example, maybe one party hides assets from the other to pay less alimony(1). If this fact is revealed later on by the court, it might lead to a changing or rewriting of this agreement towards reflecting the new information.
What Happens in Case of Violation?
In case a party fails to perform as per the Settlement Agreement before such time as it is inserted into a court order, the remedy is a breach of contract proceeding. In case a Settlement Agreement specified a particular visitation schedule for the kid and one party doesn’t follow the agreement, the police would not be able to force compliance with the contract by itself. Unless the Agreement was incorporated into a court order, the police have not such power in the direction of enforcing its provisions.
A marital settlement agreement that is made between two spouses is valid as well as enforceable contracts, and once a court issues a decision of divorce that contains this agreement, the matter is generally final, and the divorce might not be challenged. Even with their few limitations, Marital Settlement Agreements remained one of the most efficient ways to settle down many concerns, and in many situations, it is worth the effort.