In the context of a divorce or legal separation, a settlement agreement may be used in order to finalize some of the major decisions involved in the proceeding. In some cases, the parties may not be able to communicate effectively during the divorce proceeding. However, in other instances, the parties might be able to cooperate in a way that allows them to reach a settlement agreement.

Why Are Settlement Agreements Made?

Settlement agreements in a divorce can help the parties save time and resources, as it allows them to work out the various legal points on their own, rather than having to rely on the court’s analysis of the issues. This often leads to a more accurate representation of each party’s needs in the agreement. Settlement agreements are often closely related to (or are sometimes the same thing as) other family law documents such as a separation agreement.

Settlement agreements can always be made before a judgment has been made final. This can be either during the marriage or even after separation.

Are Settlement Agreement Required?

No. Marital Settlement agreements are not required, but settlement agreement have their advantages:

  • The agreement lays out all the issues that might arise during a divorce
  • The agreement makes divorce proceedings move more quickly
  • A quicker divorce means less attorney fees
  • The agreement gives the judge a layout of out any divorce related issues for a faster and more certain judgment
  • The agreement becomes in writing which prevents uncertainty

What Does a Settlement Agreement Cover?

Marriage settlement agreements or divorce/separation settlement agreements may cover major issues such as:

  • Identification/distribution of separate and shared (marital) property
  • Decisions related to child custody
  • Any amounts involved in future payments such as child support, spousal support, etc.
  • Child visitation schedules
  • Division of shared business assets
  • Various other provisions related to the divorce proceeding

As mentioned, settlement agreements may require some very involved negotiations between the two parties. However, this is also very preferable in some cases, as each party will be able to have their say regarding the final settlement agreement?

Can We Write Our Own Settlement Agreements?

Spouses may agree on the terms of their marital settlement agreement before a final judgment of divorce has been entered into or prior to a divorce. However, it is recommended that the spouses have either a mediator or their own attorney draft and review the agreement. The reason is that the agreement might not comply with the state’s law or the terms might be unclear or vague which would not uphold in court. The spouses may end up paying more money for attorney fees to fix and explain the terms to the court which is why it is a better idea to get a experienced family law attorney to draft and review the agreement. In addition, both spouses should have their own attorney review the agreement since one attorney cannot represent both spouses in a divorce.

Can a Settlement Agreement be Changed or Amended?

After the parties finalize a settlement agreement, they will usually present it to a judge, who may convert it into a final court order. This order is binding under state family laws, although they can sometimes be subject to changes in the future. Most provisions regarding property distributions are final; however, other legal issues may be open for adjustment, especially those involving child custody and visitation.

Amendments or changes to a final court divorce or separation order will have to be presented to the court again and approved by a judge.

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

Settlement agreements often involve complex legal theories. They also require a close interaction between the parties in the proceeding. For these reasons, it’s in your best interest to hire a qualified family lawyer if you need to file for a settlement agreement. Your attorney can guide you through the process to ensure that your interests and rights are being represented.