How an Attorney Can Help with a Marital Settlement Agreement
When a couple divorces, they must both sign a marital settlement agreement. This legally binding document sets forth the terms of the marriage settlement, including important issues like asset distribution and child custody.
Couples who are going through the divorce process aren’t required to use an attorney to navigate the terms of the marital settlement agreement. However, trying to save money on an attorney in the short term can be a big and expensive mistake.
A Court Order vs. Mutual Agreement
One way or another, a divorcing couple’s settlement will be set forth in a legally binding document. The more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive way to achieve this is through court proceedings.
When a couple cannot agree on the terms of a marital settlement, they’ll eventually go to court. Once in court, a judge will consider the state of the marriage and make settlement rulings on behalf of the spouses.
Every divorcing couple will have to decide whether to go straight to court or try to settle first.
Benefits of a Settlement
If at all possible, divorcing spouses are encouraged to work together to mutually agree on the terms of their marital settlement.
Agreement between divorcing spouses means a faster divorce proceeding, lower attorney fees and court costs, and less mental and emotional stress.
Perhaps most importantly, a settlement arranged by the spouses is more likely to adequately meet each side’s needs and desires.
What Does a Marital Settlement Agreement Cover?
Nearly every relevant legal issue is considered and arranged for in a marriage settlement. A settlement will likely have more elements to address for a long-term marriage or a marriage with children.
Custody and Child Support
Divorcing spouses with children will have to decide whether both parents will share joint custody or if one parent will receive primary custody. They will need to designate which parent’s home will serve as the primary residence for the children and establish a visitation schedule.
During this time, divorcing spouses will also need to agree on child support payments and other financial concerns.
Property and Other Assets
Another significant consideration for the marital settlement agreement is the distribution of assets. This can get complicated quickly, even when there is only one primary residence.
Some couples may have multiple properties to divide, businesses to address, mortgages to allocate, vehicles, and personal loans.
Divorcing couples may need to determine ownership of pets and any other possessions.
If assets will be sold, a marital settlement agreement will address the division of the proceeds. It will also address the closing of any mutual bank accounts that are held by the couple.
Other Financial Considerations
Divorcing spouses will likely have additional considerations that may need to be arranged in the settlement. The longer a marriage lasts, the higher chance there is of having additional points to settle.
Using an attorney helps to ensure that all financial factors have been addressed, including:
- Alimony payments
- Inheritance rights
- Life insurance policies
- Debt allocation
- Tax considerations
Every divorce will look somewhat different. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can ensure that assets are divided in a manner that is mutually beneficial.
Why Use an Attorney for a Settlement?
When both parties have attorneys, the divorce process can be easier to navigate. Attorneys can serve as neutral third parties. They can act as go-betweens and reduce the need for the divorcing parties to communicate directly.
When negotiations go through attorneys and a third-party mediator, emotional tensions can be reduced. Each spouse will also have a legal resource to turn to when they want to ask questions or address concerns.
Additional benefits of working with a knowledgeable attorney during a divorce include:
A Better Understanding of the Complex Legal System
One of the most stressful elements of divorce is the unknown. Married life may have brought many issues to light. However, when a couple decides to divorce, the future is uncertain.
Typically, both parties are concerned about their futures. Finances, housing, and child custody are all major, life-altering concerns.
In addition to the stress of these big changes, it’s normal for spouses to fear that they’ll end up with the worse end of the deal when it comes to a marriage settlement.
When couples can work together and negotiate a settlement, they can enjoy better control over the outcome of the settlement. When couples refuse to cooperate and end up in court, there’s a much higher chance that one or both of them will be deeply unsatisfied with the judge’s ruling.
The Ability to Save Money
Legal issues can be expensive. When couples manage to negotiate the terms of their divorce successfully, they end up saving a lot of time and money by avoiding long, drawn-out court hearings.
Even when both spouses are willing to work together, paying for an attorney to ensure that all legal issues are tended to can save one or both spouses a lot of money in the long run.
Peace of Mind
If you don’t know about how debt allocation is divided, you may agree to take responsibility for 50% of the debt and find yourself continuing to owe payments on your ex-spouse’s student loans.
Or, you might find yourself the recipient of an inheritance a decade later, only to learn that you might share half the money with your former spouse because you didn’t ask that they waive their future inheritance rights.
The law is complicated. The average person doesn’t know all of the questions to ask to be adequately protected in the event of a divorce.
When it is negotiated correctly, the marital settlement agreement can leave both parties in greater control of the outcome with reduced time, stress, and cost.
Using an attorney to navigate this final step in a marriage dissolution is crucial. This way, you can ensure that all your bases are covered so that both parties can move forward.
Finding an Attorney You Can Trust
If you’re navigating the divorce process and need advice about how to proceed with issues related to divorce or child custody, the attorneys at Crystal Wright Law, can help.