Managing a divorce can be emotional and stressful. In an uncontested proceeding, the two spouses agree to the divorce and come to an agreement about the way assets and property will be divided, along with resolving child support and custody issues. This is the ideal situation so the process isn’t drawn out or more distressing than it has to be.
Completing a fair marital settlement agreement is one of the most important components of the uncontested divorce process, ensuring that you are getting everything you deserve in the split. This contract outlines how everything between the two spouses should be handled.
This guide will walk you through what a marital settlement agreement is, what is included in these contracts, and five ways to create an agreement that is fair and satisfactory.
Understanding Marital Settlement Agreements
A marital settlement agreement is a written contract that records all the agreements reached during the divorce process. It outlines important information such as finances, division of property, child support and custody, and other details in uncontested divorces. Having one means there are no serious disputes to resolve in court and that the two spouses are generally in agreement about how to divide assets and handle other matters.
There are certain elements that should be part of any marital settlement agreement. These are detailed, thorough, and legally binding contracts, and most couples will have a lawyer draft theirs to ensure that it is airtight. Here are the most common sections in marital settlement agreements and what they mean.
Child Support and Custody Information
If a divorcing couple has children, it is important that child custody and child support be outlined clearly in the marital settlement agreement. Details may include visitation rights and the amount of child support to be paid from one spouse to the other.
The marital settlement agreement should also outline any alimony arrangements, also known as spousal support. Alimony may be paid to a spouse if he or she depended on the other spouse financially and would be unable to meet their needs without the financial help after the divorce.
Division of Property and Assets
Whether or not the couple has children together, there are other assets to consider when going through a divorce. What will happen to the home if the couple owns it together?
What about any financial accounts and investments, like retirement accounts? The agreement should also account for other marital property like a car or other valuables.
Division of Debt
Sometimes both spouses have shared debts to deal with, whether those are credit cards, an auto loan, or a mortgage. The marital settlement agreement should outline how these debts will be divided or taken care of in the divorce process and afterward.
Any other issues that have been worked out between the parties should be outlined in the agreement and reviewed by a legal professional. Sometimes details like a legal name change will be included in the agreement, so it’s important to make sure yours is exactly what you need.
5 Ways to Create a Fair Settlement Agreement
The marital settlement agreement should be fair to both parties, even if the terms are not completely equal. One spouse may need to receive financial assistance from the other to maintain their way of living, for example.
Here are a few ways to make sure the agreement is fair as you start reviewing it with an attorney.
1. Outline the Parenting Plan
Even if you and your spouse have come to a verbal agreement about childcare, it is always wise to put the terms in the agreement. This includes the specific agreed-upon visitation schedule and what will happen if one parent fails to meet the terms.
2. Include Life Insurance
If one party will be required to pay alimony or child support, include a requirement that this spouse pays life insurance so the other or child will still be protected should something happen.
3. Be Specific About Each Asset
Assets will either be jointly held or personal to one of the parties. Anything of value should be included in the agreement so both people are on the same page about what will happen when splitting up their things. Without specifics, dividing belongings can quickly become problematic and cause additional disputes.
4. Confirm That Both Parties Agree
The contract should outline that both parties agree to all the terms therein and that each person accepts the terms. Each party will sign the marital settlement agreement to confirm that the terms are correct.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
If you are not satisfied with the terms of a settlement agreement, get help negotiating the terms from an experienced attorney. Do not sign a contract that is not favorable or has serious issues. Be open to negotiating so that the divorce can proceed smoothly, but still stand firm on the terms that are important to you.
It is always crucial to review the marital settlement contract carefully to ensure that all terms are satisfactory to you and that nothing significant is left unaddressed. This will involve the assistance of a legal professional, who can help you understand any language you are not familiar with.
Contact a Divorce Attorney With Any Questions
Navigating a divorce can be confusing and overwhelming, even if it is an uncontested divorce and you expect it to move quickly. A divorce attorney will help you draft and review a marital settlement contract to ensure your needs are being met and that everything is favorable to you. If the other party’s attorney prepared the agreement, you will still need an attorney to review it for you.
These documents can be complex, and one mistake could mean you do not get the support you need after a divorce. Never underestimate how much a legal professional can help.
Contact the Law Office of Michael Ephraim for more information about your Virginia divorce.