Separations & Settlements
Your divorce settlement agreement is one of the last legal actions in a divorce proceeding and is the final agreement between spouses that sets forth the terms and conditions of a divorce. The agreements govern the division of property and the court’s assignment of a spouse’s ongoing responsibilities related to custody, visitation, and support.
Divorce settlement agreements must be signed by both parties and accepted by the court before they can be incorporated into the final divorce decree. As part of the final decree, the issues covered in the divorce settlement also become final and do not have to be further contested at trial. Depending on the jurisdiction, divorce settlements are also known as marital agreements, termination agreements and settlement agreements.
Filing a divorce settlement agreement with the court means all agreements are described in writing and there is no uncertainty about the terms. It also shows the court that all of the material aspects of the divorce are agreed upon and the case can move forward. Although divorce settlement agreements can be entered into at any time during the divorce process, they are usually filed at the end along with the final judgment. In cases where one spouse is receiving welfare, the divorce settlement agreement may need reviewed by the District Attorney’s office before it can be filed in court.
Divorce Settlement Agreements will cover:
“¢ Spousal Support
“¢ Alimony Payments
“¢ Spousal Maintenance
“¢ Division of Real Property
“¢ Child Custody
“¢ Child Visitation
“¢ Child Support
“¢ Debt Assignment
“¢ Division of Bank Accounts
“¢ Health and Life Insurance
“¢ Real Estate Ownership
“¢ Pensions and Retirement Plans
Separation agreements and settlement agreements are not the same. If both spouses are in agreement, they can ask the court for a separation agreement before the divorce is final; however most agreements are made through negotiation and then included in the final settlement agreement in court. When spouses don’t agree, the court will determine asset and debt distribution and rule on custody, support and visitation based on the best interests of the parties involved. Any agreements between spouses made outside of the court are not legally binding.
You are not required to obtain a separate divorce settlement agreement in addition to the divorce itself, but a written agreement can serve as legal evidence of a separation as well as detailing the terms of any settlements if those issues are contested later. It is important to create a settlement agreement you can live with the first time because it can be very difficult to reverse once it has been signed by a judge as part of a final divorce decree. Remember that your divorce settlement agreement has the force of law behind it and failure to comply with the terms will be treated as contempt of court violations.