Divorce is often a difficult and painful experience for all parties involved. It can also be an expensive and contentious process. In some cases, the spouses are able to reach an agreement that the marriage is ending and how the property and/or assets should be divided. They may also be able to agree on child custody and/or child support issues and include those as well. 

These types of agreements are often found in uncontested divorces. In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to the divorce and all issues relating to the finalization of the divorce. These types of divorces are often less expensive, less time consuming, and generally less stressful, especially since the parties may not be required to attend court hearings.

A divorce agreement may be prepared in several different ways. It may be done prior to a divorce trial to address the various issues that will be covered in upcoming hearings. The parties may also come to an agreement through their respective attorneys. Additionally, parties may reach an agreement through alternative dispute resolution, such as divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce process.

A divorce agreement may allow the divorce process to run more smoothly. Rather than relying on orders from the court, parties can make their own choices regarding certain issues. The agreement can also be submitted to and approved by the court to become an official court order.

What Does a Divorce Agreement Cover?

There are many issues a divorce agreement may cover. Depending on the circumstances of the marriage, an agreement may include:

  • Provisions regarding alimony, also called spousal support;
  • Provisions regarding asset and/or property division;
  • Provisions outlining child custody and visitation arrangements;
  • Provisions outlining child support matters;
  • Provisions regarding mortgage payments on shared property;
  • Provisions outlining the division of marital debts.
  • Any other issues the parties agree to include such as the improvement of marital property or shared business assets.

In general, courts prefer the parties to cover as much as possible in their divorce agreement. This way, the court bears less of a burden in defining settlement amounts, dividing property, and all other issues that come with divorce. 

However, in some cases, the parties are not able to reach an agreement that is voluntarily entered into by both sides. In these cases, legal intervention may be necessary if the parties are unable to agree on terms of the divorce.

Are Divorce Agreements and Separation Agreements the Same?

No, divorce agreements and separation agreements are not the same. A separation agreement provides terms for parties who are still married but living separately. It provides a temporary solution for immediate problems such as who resides in the marital home and who has primary child custody.

A divorce agreement is not legally required. It is, however, a helpful tool to utilize to resolve those issues on which the parties can agree. 

What if the Parties can Only Agree on Some Issues?

It is perfectly acceptable for the parties to only agree on some issues. An agreement that does not include all issues is known as a partial divorce settlement agreement. It includes the issues the parties agree upon. All other issues are resolved during the divorce trial. There is no pressure on the parties to agree on all issues but any that can be agreed upon makes the process that much less difficult.

Can a Divorce Agreement be Changed?

Yes, it may be possible to change a divorce agreement. These agreements function as contracts between the two parties. In many cases, an agreement reached prior to the end of a divorce trial becomes incorporated into the final divorce decree. The final divorce decree is legally binding and a violation of that decree may result in legal penalties. 

It is important to note that both divorce decrees and divorce agreements may be changed. It is actually common to modify an agreement or decree, especially if it involves child custody and/or child support issues, which require changes over time as the needs of the child change. The parties need to agree to the changes and may submit requests for modifications to the court for approval.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Divorce Agreement?

Yes, it is important to have an experienced divorce lawyers assisting with your divorce agreement. Divorce agreements can cover many issues and be complex documents that you must abide by after they become court orders. It is important to have an attorney explain the laws regarding divorce and how the provisions included in the agreement may affect you and your family.

An attorney can assist with negotiation, drafting, preparing, reviewing, and/or finalizing a divorce agreement. An attorney may also assist with divorce agreement modifications. Should any disputes arise from the agreement, the attorney can represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. It is important to remember that an attorney can be hired at any time during the process to help, even if the agreement has already been signed.