A Marital Settlement Agreement is a legal binding contract. It should include all aspects of all of the issues that need to be addressed between the parties. For example, it should include all of the issues pertaining to custody such as who has legal custody, who is the parent of primary residence, when will the other parent have the right to exercise parenting time with the children, who will have the children on the various holidays and school recesses, etc. It should also include all of the financial aspects pertaining to the children such as child support, medical insurance, such as who will pay child support and how much, when will the child support begin and terminate, who will maintain the medical insurance and who will pay for it, who will pay for the uncovered medical expenses, who will pay for college, etc.
The Marital Settlement Agreement should also include all aspects of equitable distribution. For example, it should include what will happen to the parties’ assets, such as their home, bank account, investments, retirement plans, businesses, etc. It should also address who should be responsible for the debt. The Marital Settlement Agreement should include all aspects of alimony such as whether it is being waived, who will pay it, the beginning and end date, will it be subject to change, etc.
If all of these issues are agreed upon, a trial will not be necessary. Instead, one of the attorneys will draft the Marital Settlement Agreement. Once the Agreement is signed by both parties, the Court should be notified. The Court will then label the case as settled and schedule the matter for an uncontested hearing. At the uncontested hearing, once the judge is satisfied that the parties are entitled to a divorce, the court will hear testimony regarding the Martial Settlement Agreement. For example, the Court will want to hear that the parties entered into the Agreement freely and voluntarily, that there was no coercion or undo influence, etc. Once the Court is satisfied, the Court will incorporate the Marital Settlement Agreement into the Judgment of Divorce. The Marital Settlement Agreement will then have the same force and effect, as if the judge had tried the case and had decided the terms as they appear in the Marital Settlement Agreement.
As attorneys, it is our goal to resolve all cases and obtain a Marital Settlement Agreement signed by both parties which addresses all aspects of all of the issues that need to be addressed in each particular case.