A divorce settlement agreement is a document that outlines the terms of a divorce between two spouses.
It covers important topics, including the division of assets, child custody, and alimony.
The divorcing spouses write it when they reach a mutual agreement on the terms of the divorce. This is typically done after negotiating multiple aspects with or without the assistance of attorneys. This agreement becomes legally binding after both parties complete, sign, and get it reviewed and approved by the court. It serves as a guide for the parties involved by outlining their responsibilities during the divorce process.
A divorce settlement agreement also has the following alternative names:
- Marital settlement agreement
- Separation agreement
- Separation and property settlement agreement
In this article, we will discuss everything essential to know about making and using a divorce settlement agreement.
The Importance of a Divorce Settlement Agreement
A divorce settlement agreement is very important because of multiple reasons. It mainly facilitates the suitable division of assets and shared property. Married couples can minimize litigation or legal involvement in the process of their separation by using it.
Since a divorce settlement agreement is an initial agreement that you complete outside of court, it helps avoid excessive legal involvement in the negotiation stage of the process. This, in turn, also saves the individuals involved significant amounts of money, which they would otherwise have to spend on legal proceedings.
Moreover, it provides clarity about the roles and responsibilities the involved parties must fulfill without the court deciding these for them. Written documentation of these roles and responsibilities provides the involved individuals protection against future disputes or misunderstandings. Because in case any party refuses to comply with the agreed-upon factors, they shall be liable to legal repercussions.
Apart from that, using this agreement is very suitable for couples who have children together, as it helps preserve cordial relations between them because of the reduced invasion of their privacy by the court.
The Key Components of a Divorce Settlement Agreement
The divorcing couple prepares a divorce settlement agreement, usually in collaboration with their respective attorneys. Although the components in it can vary by jurisdiction considering applicable laws and regulations, the basic format contains the following few elements:
Identification of parties
Detail the identities of both spouses clearly and accurately in the divorce settlement agreement. This section should include their full legal names, address(es), and other identifying information such as social security numbers, etc.
This section clearly declares the intent of the parties involved to end their marriage. It acknowledges and establishes the purpose of the agreement clearly in writing. This declaration of the spouses’ mutual decision is essential to proceed toward the more intricate parts of the agreement. It is the initial component on which you focus the rest of the agreement.
Division of assets and debts
In this section, detail the agreed-upon division of the assets and liabilities. This will include their property, finances, debt, real estate, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, personal material belongings, etc.
The divorce settlement agreement will specify how these assets and liabilities will be fairly distributed among the spouses. Pay close attention to this section, as its accuracy will help mitigate potential disputes or disagreements in the future.
If the couple that is in the process of divorcing has children, it will be essential for them to address child custody and visitation factors clearly. This information will go in this section of the divorce settlement agreement. Typically, you will include the parenting plan, which will specify which parent will have custody of which child (or all), and the visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.
A visitation schedule, as the name suggests; schedules the visits by the other parent. This section can also specify which parent may make decisions regarding the child(ren), what responsibilities each parent will have toward them, and the dispute resolution process in this sphere. Lastly, the divorcing couple may also use this section to establish the visitation schedule for vacations or special occasions.
This part of the agreement focuses on the financial aspect of the scenario. It will specify the terms of the decided financial support that the noncustodial parent will provide for the child(ren). Here, specify the amount to consider as child support, the frequency of payment, the method of payment, and adjustment provisions for the future according to circumstances. You may also detail responsibilities regarding ongoing expenses such as healthcare, education and extracurricular activities here. Establishing such details will help ensure the smooth continuation of the basic essential requirements of your children after the settlement.
Alimony or spousal support
If it has been discussed among the spouses and either of them is entitled to alimony or financial support, the details of this provision will be captured in this section. Here, declare the financial responsibility of the specific spouse in explicit terms. Along with that, you may also specify the amount, frequency and duration of spousal support. Additionally, include any modifiability or termination terms here. These terms will dictate the situations in which the involved parties can be discontinue or modify it.
Now, address the terms for continuation or termination of any insurance coverage, for instance health insurance, especially for the child(ren). You can also discuss the same terms for any other existing insurance policies, such as life insurance or retirement plans. The reason for discussing these aspects is to ensure that there isn’t a negative impact in this context on the well-being of the children and, if applicable, the spouse due to the separation.
Next, discuss the considerations associated with filing of the taxes, including who out of the spouses will claim the children as dependants and how they will manage tax liabilities or refunds.
Discussing tax-related matters is essential to mitigate future disputes and ensure ongoing compliance with tax regulations.
This specific part of the agreement discusses the agreed-upon solutions for dispute resolution purposes in the future. The divorcing couple may agree to implement a certain set of actions in case disputes arise in order to maintain cordial relations. This will also help them keep the court out of their personal matters, which in turn, will also be suitable for managing their finances.
Finality and incorporation
This last section should declare that the resolution reached via this agreement is final between the divorcing parties. It should also clearly state the acknowledgment that the agreement is to be incorporated into a court order which shall make it legally binding.
These factors will enhance the legal credibility of this document.
Note: We recommend you consult a family law attorney in the process of making a divorce settlement agreement, as there are certain legal requirements for making it that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Meeting these, along with any other legal requirements, is essential, and a professional attorney might be able to do so most effectively. Moreover, a divorce settlement agreement is modifiable after it has been finalized and signed, but there are a few factors associated with this modifiability. Discuss these with your law attorney and incorporate them into your agreement if you find it suitable for your case too.
Divorce Settlement Agreement Terms
There are a few legal terms that are commonly used during a divorce settlement process or while making its agreement. It can be beneficial for you to be aware of these in the process of making your document.
These are as follows:
Legal professionals use this term to refer to the concept of fair distribution of assets. It is based on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial contribution to it, and their current financial situation. It does not equally split the assets and/or owned property and takes such subjective factors into consideration.
Any property gained during the course of the marriage by any of the two spouses is labeled marital property. This property could have been acquired individually or in collaboration with the other spouse. It typically includes assets such as real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings.
Separate property in the divorce settlement process is that property that is not subject to division. It is either acquired before the marriage or received as a present or inheritance during the marriage by either of the spouses.
Community property states
As opposed to equitable distribution, there are nine states that only divide the marital property equally between the spouses. These nine states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Equitable distribution states
All the states other than the aforementioned nine of them are considered equitable distribution states, where marital property is not divided automatically on a 50/50 basis.
Note: The legal terms involved in the divorce settlement process and their usage can vary in different states. Which is why it is important that you hire a family law attorney and involve them in the process. Such a legal expert can ensure or guide you on the correct usage of the suitable and accurate legal terms.
A divorce settlement agreement is a legally binding document once the court approves it. This means it is essential to include the necessary components in this document. Missing any of the essential sections could result in serious problems later on, as divorce is a serious matter itself, which entails a change of lifestyle.
Although we have recommended the involvement of a family law attorney in the process of making the agreement, we also encourage you to select and download one of our free divorce settlement agreement templates from below. We prepare these documents meticulously, considering all the necessary components that you must include in your agreement. Using a template for this purpose can ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the significantly essential components of the agreement.
A divorce settlement agreement is the document a divorcing couple prepares after they reach a mutual agreement relating to the factors involved. The court then reviews and approves this document later on, which makes it legally enforceable. The spouses document the suitable distribution of assets and liabilities, child support, child custody, visitation, and alimony using it. There are certain laws and requirements to consider in different states of the U.S while making and using this agreement. Which is why we recommend you involve a family law attorney in the process. You may also use one of the free divorce settlement agreement templates available on this or any other site to ensure including the necessary components.