When working through a divorce, you’ll encounter lots of documents, but one stands out above the others in importance: the Marital Settlement Agreement. A marriage settlement agreement is the most critical document drafted by your attorney during your divorce, outlining the terms of the agreement including division of assets and child custody and parenting time. Once finalized, you’ll be held to every aspect of the agreement so you need to make sure your best interests are protected and every necessary item is addressed. 

What Is the Marriage Settlement Agreement?

A marriage settlement agreement is also known as a property settlement agreement. This comprehensive document covers all of the terms of a divorce. If there is alimony, the terms are outlined in the marriage settlement agreement. Do you own property? The distribution of this property is also outlined in detail. If there are children, custody, parenting time, and child support are outlined here as well.  Once it is signed by you and your spouse, it is binding and goes into effect immediately.

This document is not reviewed by the courts before it grants your divorce, but the court will ask if you are entering into the agreement freely and voluntarily, and that you are waiving your right to a trial by entering into the agreement.  In fact, a private agreement is exactly what most people want – to avoid the lengthy, costly, and stressful divorce trial.  

It’s also important to note that this agreement doesn’t need to wait for the divorce to be finalized to become effective. Once it’s signed by both parties, the agreement and its terms are put into effect.

The Marriage Settlement Agreement Checklist

When putting together your marriage settlement agreement, you’ll want to consider all pieces of your married life as well as your family’s needs after your divorce is finalized. Here are some key items to consider:

  • Children
    • Child support
    • Parenting time
    • Custody
    • Child’s health insurance 
    • Life insurance to secure child support and college costs 
    • Stepchildren visitation
    • Grandparents visitation
    • Education expenses
  • Real Property
    • The value of any real property
    • How it will be divided?
    • Who lives in the primary residence?
    • Will the remaining spouse be bought out of the property?
    • Will the property be sold and the proceeds divided?
    • Equity in the property
    • Furnishings and other assets related to the real property
  • Other Assets and Liabilities
    • Bank accounts
    • Investment accounts
    • Retirement accounts
    • Businesses 
    • Vehicles (including boats, motorcycles, and RVs)
    • Jewelry
    • Stocks and bonds
    • Credit card debt
    • Student loan debt
    • Mortgages, HELOCs, and other loans
  • Alimony or spousal support
    • Is there a need for alimony?
    • How long should the alimony last?
    • How much should alimony be?
    • COBRA (continued health insurance coverage)
  • Other Legal Issues
    • Domestic violence
    • Child abuse
    • Name change
    • Attorney fees
  • Documents to gather
    • Financial statements (Bank account, credit cards, loans, pensions, and retirement)
    • Tax returns
    • Business account records
    • Wills
    • Insurance policies (Life insurance, health insurance, et al)
    • Title and deed to the house
    • Trust documents
    • Any and all bills related to your home and children

These are just a few items you’ll need to discuss when creating your property settlement agreement. Remember, no two marriages are alike, so no two agreements will be alike.

Why Work with an Attorney for a Marriage Settlement Agreement?

When preparing your property settlement agreement, you’ll have lots of information and discussions to process.  This document does not expire and governs your entire future. Given the impact this document will have on your life moving forward, it’s important to be cautious of the many common mistakes people make in their marital settlement agreements. A lawyer can help you avoid these pitfalls and help you make sense of the items you need and why they are needed.

Since no two marriages are alike, that means no two divorces are alike either.  Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side will make sure the agreement is crafted to meet all your unique needs. Your attorney will be able to help you decide what concerns apply to you and your situation and which issues do not apply to you

If you’re going through a divorce and want to make sure your marital settlement agreement has all the necessary information it needs, contact the experienced lawyers at Keith Family Law today.