As a divorce progresses, couples must make provisions for life after marriage – especially if children and property are involved. One of those provisions is the creation of a divorce settlement agreement. Depending on your location in the US, a divorce settlement agreement may also be known as a divorce agreement, a marital settlement agreement, or a separation agreement. Divorce settlements differ from couple to couple, pave the way for a seamless divorce and reduce the possibility of disagreements once a divorce has been finalized.
The Divorce Settlement Agreement
In specific terms, divorce settlement agreements establish how divorcing couples will treat their family issues once they have dissolved their marriage. Child support, custody, property distribution, alimony, and the rights and responsibilities of each ex-spouse are common issues in divorce settlements; however, the document can include whatever points a couple deems necessary. In fact, it is recommended that couples be as detailed as possible to prevent ambiguity and confusion after a divorce has been finalized.
Child Custody and Support
Custody determines where and with which parent a child resides after a divorce. While ex-spouses can pre-plan custody arrangements in divorce settlements, the courts make the final decision. Both parents have equal rights to a child, but judges only base custody decisions on what they deem to be in the child’s best interests.
Child support is money paid to the custodial parent – the parent with whom the child will reside after the divorce – for their care and maintenance. Child support is governed by the child support guidelines in each state.
Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is money paid to an ex-spouse following a separation or divorce. The amount paid to the ex-spouse is intended to allow them to maintain a lifestyle similar to their pre-separation or pre-divorce standards. Alimony amounts and duration are negotiated between ex-spouses or determined by state laws. Some factors that may influence alimony and duration under state law are:
- Each party’s relative income
- Length of the marriage
- Time spent apart while still married
- Future financial prospects
In the US, marital property is divided using the equitable distribution model and the community property model. The model that applies to you depends on which one is used in your state.
In the equitable distribution model, the property is divided equitably or fairly using several factors, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Future needs of each spouse
- Who is the custodial parent
- Financial contributions to the marriage
- Sources of income
- Worth of the marital property
In the community property model, assets and debts belonging to both parties are shared equally between divorcing spouses.
Preparation of Divorce Agreements
In uncontested (out-of-court) divorce settlements, attorneys and ex-spouses typically prepare divorce agreements with the guidance and assistance of their respective attorneys or a private divorce mediator. It is best that ex-spouses receive professional assistance instead of preparing the settlement agreement on their own. Obtaining professional input ensures that the document is completed in compliance with state laws and can withstand the scrutiny of the courts. In contested divorces, where ex-spouses cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, the agreement is determined by the courts.
Finalizing a Divorce Settlement Agreement
Once completed, divorce agreements must be signed and approved by the courts. They are legally binding, and a party’s failure to comply can result in contempt of court.
Family Mediation Services in Atlanta, Georgia
Navigating divorce settlements can be challenging. Contact us at Blue Skies Mediation to avoid the courts and the high legal fees associated with retaining a lawyer. We provide high-quality, impartial divorce mediation that can quickly and fairly resolve your case. Call us at 904-710-9245 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.