Free Divorce Settlement Agreement Templates [US] – Word, PDF

divorce agreement

A Divorce Agreement is a formal document used by a separating couple to outline how family responsibilities such as custody, child support, and care will be distributed and how marital assets will be divided and protected. 

A divorce arrangement is referred to by other names such as:

  • Divorce Settlement Agreement
  • Separation Agreement or Separation and Property Settlement Agreement
  • A final decree of divorce
  • Custody, Support, and Property Agreement
  • Mediated Separation Agreement
  • Collaborative Settlement Agreement
  • Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), and
  • Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

Do you know: In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, a divorce agreement can be used to compel the spouse with a higher income to provide financial assistance in the form of alimony and child support to the other spouse. 

Purpose of a Divorce Agreement

A divorce agreement is a speedy option in the process of divorce instead of a lengthy court case. However, the couple must have already agreed to a divorce before proceeding to prepare a divorce agreement. The agreement clarifies the settlement terms between one and their couple by declaring which party gets what property and responsibilities. This way, there is room for negotiations and compromise, thus increasing the possibility of each party getting what they want, unlike a court case where the jury makes the final decision.

Outstanding financial claims associated with debt, shares, savings, and pension are outlined in the document such that no party can demand financial obligations from the other in the future.

The divorcing couple must sign a divorce agreement, presented, and accepted by a court of law as fair and equitable before marriage is formally dissolved.

When to Use a Divorce Agreement

Primarily, a divorce agreement is used when a married couple can agree on all issues associated with the separation and settlement without the court’s intervention.

Other than that, a marital settlement agreement will often be enforceable in the following scenarios:

  • When one can locate and contact their spouse
  • In situations where there are ongoing negotiations or will to negotiate between two separating parties regarding the divorce and division of marital property
  • When one has already mutually agreed with their partner on how to divide responsibilities and property
  • In cases where the spouse has an intention to seek the services of an attorney, they can use a divorce agreement to communicate the terms of separation to the attorney.

Essential Elements Present in the Divorce Agreement

To thoroughly address settlement through a divorce agreement, fundamental items must appear in the document. These elements of a divorce agreement template address the who, what, where, when, why, and how.

These include:

  • Involved parties (who): This includes the married couple, attorney, children, and any other parties.
  • Assets and responsibilities (what): The property and responsibilities to be shared should be identified and described.
  • Jurisdiction (where): The document should outline the county and state of residency of the couple.
  • Dates (when): The date when the divorce is officiated by the judge and the document is signed by the divorcing spouses ought to be included. 
  • Reasons for separation (why): Common grounds for divorce are unsolvable differences, supportability, and any other reasons agreeable. 
  • Separation (how): The document should outline who gets what in the divorce and when and how the children will be catered to. Relevant documents for the execution of the agreement, such as power of attorney, should be specified as well as the effective dates of all associated documents.

Steps to Negotiate a Divorce

Knowing how to negotiate for assets and custody is critical in getting a smooth and successful divorce process. This article will highlight several steps that the separating couple can adopt when negotiating a divorce.  

These steps include:

Find an attorney

First and foremost, parties should appoint legal counsel. Attorneys become essential in ensuring the divorce agreement terms are law compliant even if both parties agree without any disputes. In addition, one can opt to use local attorneys or website referral services.

Meet and strategize

Subsequently, a meeting with the attorney should be held to strategize how to proceed with the divorce negotiations. A financial disclosure should let the attorney know the couple’s assets, liabilities, current income, and income tax returns for the previous two years. Financial disclosures are important when negotiating alimony and child support. At this point, a draft of one’s wants and needs ought to be prepared during the meeting.  

When negotiating a divorce, the next step is to reach out to the other party’s legal counsel, and the prepared draft should be sent. Consequently, a draft of their requests should be obtained.

Schedule a meeting

Afterward, a meeting between the two spouses and their legal teams should be held. This is taken as the preliminary meeting before negotiations begin. Finally, all financial disclosures are made, and each party declares personal and marital property of importance to them.

Begin negotiating

Once every property and responsibility has been set forth, negotiations can begin. Ordinarily, all items declared by the couple are up for negotiation. Sobriety and tranquillity are important when negotiating. As much as possible, parties should avoid making requests and decisions based on sentiment. Negotiations will often take place at the same time as the court proceedings.

Sign the marital settlement agreement

Once all parties (husband and wife) have been satisfied with the settlement terms, they should write a divorce agreement. The marital settlement agreement becomes legally enforceable in every state once all parties have signed.

Go to court

The next step is filing the signed divorce agreement in court. The judge will then determine if the terms are fair and equitable to both parties. State laws and other applicable laws will usually be consulted at this point by the court as divorces are usually a matter of state.

Get a divorce decree

Lastly, a judge must officiate the separation for the negotiated terms to be set in motion. This is done by applying for a divorce decree or divorce judgment. The divorce decree is then mailed to both parties within 30 days after the final day of the court hearing.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is an allowance agreed on or court-mandated to be made to a former spouse by the higher income earning spouse for a specified period after legal separation. The amount of money given as alimony is determined by the married couple and approved by a judge.

The factors that affect how much and who will pay alimony include:

  • The annual incomes of the individual spouses
  • The number of dependents listed in the marital settlement agreement
  • How long the couple has been married

Alimony calculators

A judge must approve alimony before becoming legally enforceable.

What is Child Support?

Child support is expressed as the ongoing obligation for a periodic payment made by the non-custodial parent (obligor) to a custodial parent or another guardian (oblige) for the financial care and support of children of the marriage to be terminated. Child support covers typically; basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing). It may include education, health, and dental insurance and additional support. Child support is not tax-deductible and depends on the state’s child support guidelines.

They take into consideration the following factors:

  • The number of children below 18 years involved
  • The annual income of the obligor and the oblige
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Day-care expenses
  • The percentage time (custody) each parent is awarded by the divorce agreement or court

Child support calculators

Child support is legally enforceable, and consequently, there are legal ramifications for non-payment.

They include:

  • Supporting spouse’s income being withheld
  • Suspension of the paying spouse’s driving license
  • A monetary penalty of interest on the child support owed for example – the 18 U.S. Code § 228 law states that supporting parents who reside in another state is subject to a fine and six months jail time if they do not pay child support for one year and owe at least $5000.
  • Passport denial
  • Imprisonment, for example, under 18 U.S. Code § 228  supporting parents may be jailed for two years if they repeat a non-payment offense of refusing to pay child support for at least one year of child support amounting to $5000.

Custodial vs. non-custodial

A custodial parent is a spouse who will be having the child (children) for most of the time after the separation, meaning they will have a more physical presence in providing protection, care, and supervision. A non-custodial parent is the spouse with part-time custody or visitation rights to the child and is often more likely to pay for child support. 

How is Property Divided?

The division of marital/matrimonial property during a divorce is highly dependent on state laws. Depending on the state, legislation may stipulate that the division be fair rather than equivalent. In addition, one should consider joint debts such as loans, mortgages, credit card debts, and car payments.

The following 2 (two) methods can be used to divide marital property in the U.S:

1) Equitable distribution law

Equitable distribution law (Uniform Marriage & Divorce Act § 307, Barr v. Commissioner, 10 T.C. 1288 (1948), IRM 25.18.1.3.5 (Annulment)) is a law that favors “fair” or reasonable (not equal) distribution of property. Distribution is thus based on the length of the marriage, financial contributions of each spouse during that time, the employability of the individual spouses, and joint and personal financial assets and liabilities.

The states that employ equitable distribution law include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Kansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Mississippi
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • North Carolina
  • Minnesota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

2) Community property law

On the other hand, community property law (IRM 25.18.1.2.2 (Community Property Law)) implies that all assets and money earned by spouses from the onset of the marriage is marital property. Consequently, each party is entitled to it. Community property law considers the personal credit cards or bank accounts of each spouse.

States that have adopted community property law are Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, and Wisconsin.

How to Get a Divorce Agreement?

A divorce agreement is a legal document. Therefore, attention to detail is crucial to its effectiveness and enforceability.

One can take the following approaches to write a divorce agreement:

Method 1: Download a template and use it

There are various divorce settlement templates available online that individuals can download and personalize to fit their needs. These templates will commonly entail essential components that ought to be addressed during a divorce. They are designed for use in different situations and jurisdictions.

One should ensure that they download the one which adequately meets their requirements while customizing the agreement using available software such as M.S. Word where adjustments are needed. Once completed, the agreement can be presented as an official document.

Free Templates

Following are some free downloadable templates for you:

Marital-Settlement-Agreement_

    by U.S States

    Method 2: Manually write the divorce agreement

    Alternatively, one can opt to craft the divorce agreement template from scratch. Manually writing the template is a procedural process that can be lengthy, mainly if one does not want to involve an attorney when preparing it.

    Nevertheless, the following items should appear in the agreement:

    The date of the agreement

    The first item the template should address is when the agreement will be prepared. The template should prompt the user to indicate the date, month, and year.

    The parties

    The template ought to have a section that identifies the information such as the names of the husband and the wife can be written down.

    The marriage

    Marriage details such as date of consummation and location are important. The template should prompt the user to include the mentioned information.

    Armed forces

    Individuals serving in any military branch are often awarded specific provisions for marriage and divorce. The template should be designed such that parties on active duty can declare it in the divorce agreement.

    Date of separation

    The template should have a section to state when the couple officially separated.

    Minor child or children of the marriage

    Minor children are a significant consideration when separating a couple. Therefore, two sections should appear in the template declaring that a couple has minors or no minors.

    Financial disclosure

    A financial disclosure declaration indicating the possibility of the couple having disclosed their finances to each other or not should be provided.

    Alimony

    Sometimes, spousal support may or may not be required in a divorce. A template should accommodate these two options.

    For situations where alimony will be paid, provide the following items:

    The paying spouse

    The template should prompt the user to indicate the paying alimony party (husband or wife).

    The recipient spouse

    There should also be a section to identify the receiving party (husband or wife).

    Payment terms

    Settlement of alimony can be subjected to different terms and conditions as agreed during the divorce negotiation. The template should provide the typical options of alimony settlement.

    They include:

    1. In perpetuity – In perpetuity method of settlement is meant for payments to be regularly made immediately after the divorce is officiated. There should be a place to state the amount and the due date of every month.
    2. Fixed alimony term – In some cases, alimony is not for an indefinite period and is paid up to a specified date. The template should prompt the user to enter the amount, the due date, and the end date.
    3. Payment schedule – The template should allow the users to implement a unique payment schedule that does not qualify as the other mentioned payment methods.

    Change of circumstances

    The template should then address if the alimony conditions stipulated previously are susceptible to change or not. Conditions that cannot change the result to durable spousal support and those that can be changed result in flexible spousal support. Prompt the user to fill in accordingly. If the conditions are flexible, go further and list conditions under which changes are acceptable. Common conditions that can result in alimony settlement include; job loss, injury, disability, illness, and others.

    Health insurance

    The next section of the template should address how health insurance will be handled after the divorce. Two scenarios are probable in this case: each party is responsible for their health insurance or where one party is responsible for the other’s health insurance.

    For example:

    Suppose one party must pay spousal support for health insurance. In that case, the template should go further and give the template using the ability to select the supporting and receiving spouse and the type of insurance that the supporting spouse will be responsible for.

    Marital home

    The template should be designed to outline if the couple acquired a marital home or not. In that respect, there should be a provision to declare if the marital home was purchased by the couple jointly or either of the spouses (husband or wife). Also, the template should prompt the users to declare if the marital home will be sold or not after the divorce.

    Spouses’ property

    The template should have a section to list all the property the husband and the wife own after the execution of the divorce agreement.

    Payment to balance division

    Sometimes, it is not feasible to appropriately divide the property, thus necessitating that one party pay the other party a certain amount as compensation. Consequently, this section should allow the user to state if there will be a payment to balance the division or not. If there will be monetary compensation, the template should outline the supporting and receiving spouses and the due date of the payment.

    Liabilities

    The following section should prompt to outline the husband and wife’s liabilities after the divorce.

    Retirement benefits

    A married couple can obtain a retirement plan or not; the divorce agreement template should have a section where the couple declares either of the two options as applicable. If there is an existing retirement plan, options of who will own the retirement benefits should appear on the template.

    The divorce agreement template should then provide legally changing names to the users. Additionally, this section should prompt the couple to indicate the new names they will assume after changing once the marital settlement agreement is implemented.

    Additional terms

    The divorce agreement template should prompt the couple to indicate any additional terms they would like to enforce within the marital settlement agreement.

    Signatures and dates

    The next section should address the husband’s and the wife’s name, signature, and date of signing.

    Attached documents

    Finally, there should be attached documents that should be part of the divorce agreement. The key one is the child support attachment.

    Child Support

    Child support attachment has the following components:

    Existing minor children information

    Existing minor children should be identified by name and date of birth.

    Future children

    This provision is included for expectant couples who are divorcing. Provide spaces to indicate the number of children and the expected date of birth.

    Physical custody

    There are two options viable for custody of children: sole custody or joint custody. The two options ought to be provided for selection.

    Visitation or parent-time

    Additionally, there should be a provision to indicate how visitations will be handled. The husband’s and the wife’s rights to the children should be separated and listed down. 

    Notice of change of residence

    After separation, one spouse will usually have to move. The child support attachment of the divorce agreement template ought to provide two options to the couple to complete it appropriately, sometimes at a significant distance which might interfere with visitations of the child(children). If the spouse is allowed to move, the template should address the number of days’ notice that should be given before moving. If the spouses are not allowed to move, a provision for the number of miles one can move to without notifying the other.

    Previous court actions

    The template should prompt the user to declare if they have had previous court hearings regarding the divorce or not. For the option where there were previous custody hearings, the template should prompt the user to enter the jurisdiction information and the case number of the hearing.

    Child support payments

    Next, the attachment should prompt the user to declare if there will be child support payments or not.

    There are different child support payment plans, which include:

    • Deferred child support – Deferred child support is the payment set by a court to begin later. Again, there should be a provision to indicate the jurisdiction of the court.
    • Child support payments – If child support is set to be paid immediately after the divorce, the attachment should have that provision and state the party (husband or wife) responsible for payments. A payment schedule should also indicate the amount, the monthly due date, and the first payment date.

    Additional support

    Sometimes, additional support is required on top of the already established child support.

    The attachment should prompt the user to indicate whether there will be the following additional child support payments:

    • No additional support
    • Deferred additional support
    • Health and dental insurance
    • Uncovered health care expenses
    • Time requirements for uncovered expenses – There should be a section to state the number of days after one spouse has to bill the supporting spouse after receiving an invoice or receipt. In addition, a section to indicate the duration the supporting spouse should reimburse for uncovered health expenses should be provided.
    • Any other additional payment description – The attachment should have a section to declare additional expenses unique to a certain situation.

    Dependents

    The attachment should give the couple a chance to declare one or more children as dependents for tax benefits. Therefore, there should be a provision for the husband and the wife to list their dependents separately. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can a marital settlement agreement be modified?

    Yes. Different items in a divorce agreement have distinct provisions regarding modification. For example, all financial agreements regarding property, etc., are normally changeable if both parties modify the initial agreement.

    Can a judge make a change (modification) to a marital settlement agreement?

    Yes. However, there must be a compelling and justifiable reason for the court to do so.

    Does a marital settlement agreement remain confidential?

    Not entirely. Divorce agreements are usually a matter of public record unless the couple chooses to have a confidential marital settlement agreement.