Marital Settlement Agreements

Divorces are often complicated, messy events.  It is a confusing time in the lives of individuals going through a divorce.  Because of this, many people struggle with making sense of all aspects of a divorce.  However, the ramifications of your divorce will be with you long after your divorce is finalized.  Thus, it is imperative that all aspects of your financial relationship with your spouse are adequately addressed in the documents that outline the terms of your divorce.  The attorneys at McLeod Law Firm, P.C., of Gainesville GA are experienced in asking the right questions to ensure this occurs.  Before you meet with any attorney, below are some considerations regarding documenting the terms of your divorce go as smoothly as possible. Marital Settlement Agreements In Georgia, documents known as marital settlement agreements set forth the terms of a divorce.  Marital settlement agreements should address the following: Division of Assets One of the key aspects of all divorces is the division of assets.  Most divorcing couples have at least some assets that need to be allocated.  These assets can include real estate; bank accounts; stock portfolios; personal property, including household furnishings, housewares, collectibles, and electronics; cars; and watercraft.  In order to help make certain that all assets are accounted for and are allocated equitably, a list should be made of all of the assets that you acquired during your marriage.  A list should also be made of all assets that you owned prior to your marriage, as these assets are generally not subject to your spouse’s claim to them. Allocation of Liabilities Of considerable concern in a divorce is the allocation of liabilities.  Liabilities related to joint debts of the couple or incurred in relation to everyday living expenses are generally subject to sharing.  However, that does not mean that these debts will be equally allocated, as the allocation of debt also depends upon the distribution of assets and income of each spouse.  Moreover, debts incurred by one spouse solely for his or her benefit or for excessive purposes, such as luxury items, should not be shared.  Accordingly, as with a list of assets, a list of debts should be compiled and examined to determine which debts are marital debts and which are not.  If your spouse is uncooperative in providing information regarding suspected debts, information can be subpoenaed or your spouse can otherwise be compelled to provide the information.  You do not want to find out after the divorce that your spouse incurred significant debt for which you may be responsible or for which you need to go back to court to seek a determination of responsibility. Child Support Child support is a very important element in a divorce if children are involved.  In Georgia, child support is calculated based upon the income of both parents, along with a variety of other factors, including the number of children, who has primary physical custody of the children, childcare expenses, insurance costs, and educational expenses. Life Insurance Very often, spouses are the beneficiaries of one another’s life insurance policies.  Whether these beneficiary designations will remain should be addressed in a marital settlement agreement.  Similarly, if children are involved, life insurance policies with the children as beneficiaries may be necessary, depending upon the income of the individuals involved.  If such a policy is contemplated, the specific obligations of the spouse procuring the insurance policy should be set forth in the marital settlement agreement. Alimony Alimony is the award of support paid by one spouse to the other.  There are several different types of alimony.  Prior to the finalization of a divorce, a spouse may be able to obtain temporary alimony.  Additionally, the marital settlement agreement will outline alimony payments to be made after a divorce.  Alimony subsequent to a divorce may be for a shorter-term duration, such as a few years, or may permanent and endure for the life of the spouses.  If significant changes occur in the life of either spouse, alimony awards can be modified post-divorce. A spouse is eligible for alimony if he or she has a financial need and the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony.  Factors taken into consideration in determining both the amount and duration of alimony payments include current income, earning potential, division of assets, allocation of debt, the standard of living during the marriage, the spouses’ ages, the length of time of the marriage, and the behaviors of each spouse that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Every marriage is unique; every divorce is unique; and every marital settlement agreement will be unique.  Therefore, the above considerations are not an exhaustive list of things to be addressed in a marital settlement agreement.  In order to ensure that all aspects of your relationship with your spouse are properly dealt with, it is important to retain an experienced divorce attorney.  There are many things that are easily overlooked, and it is much more difficult to address them after the fact.  McLeod Law Firm, P.C., has extensive experience representing divorcing individuals and counseling them through the negotiation of a marital settlement agreement.  We can be reached at (770) 536-0202.