Divorces can be complicated and emotional. Emotions often cloud judgment, and it can be natural to want to reach an agreement so you can move on. Moving on quickly without considering the implications can be a mistake since the outcome of your divorce can impact your finances and your children for years to come. You don’t want to agree to something now that you will regret later once you’ve had the chance to move on.
It is always better for a couple to reach their own agreement than have a judge that may not share your views make decisions about your children and your finances. If an agreement is reached, you will need a marital settlement agreement that accurately reflects your wishes. We can assist you in reaching an agreement that puts you in the best position possible.
What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement is an agreement made in contemplation of divorce that addresses some or all of the parties’ choices regarding separation of property, custody, child support, spousal support, and other post-divorce rights. Marital settlement agreements can range from simple to complex and the terms of the agreement will vary depending on the needs of the parties.
A marital settlement agreement should be submitted to the court in writing for review and approval. A partial agreement may be submitted to the court, but the judge will have to decide any issues that the parties are unable to agree on. To finalize the divorce, the judge will review the marital settlement agreement and then incorporate it into a final judgment and decree of divorce.
What to Include in a Marital Settlement Agreement
Every divorce is unique, and every marital settlement agreement should be unique. Marital settlement agreements can range from simple to complex and the terms of the agreement will vary depending on the needs of the parties.
The marital settlement agreement should accurately reflect the parties’ wishes.
Marital settlement agreements often address at a minimum the following issues below:
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, vehicles, and personal property, including household furnishings, housewares, and collectibles.
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 equitable division.
Allocation of Liabilities
Of considerable concern in a divorce is the allocation of marital liabilities. Liabilities related to joint debts of the couple or incurred in relation to everyday living expenses are generally subject to division. 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, will likely not be shared.
As with a list of assets, a list of debts should also be compiled and examined to determine which debts are marital debts and which are separate. 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 during a divorce proceeding. 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.
Custody may be one of the most important and most contested issues in a divorce that involves children. Sometimes parents have dramatically different ideas as to what custodial arrangement would be best for the children post-divorce. Courts will look at what is in the “best interests” of the children. In Georgia, a marital settlement agreement should address legal and physical custody of the children. Courts require parents in a divorce to complete a separate parenting plan in addition to the marital settlement agreement.
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.
Very often, spouses are the beneficiaries of one another’s life insurance policies. Whether these beneficiary designations will remain is an issue that can be addressed in a marital settlement agreement.
Similarly, if child support is involved, be sure to include a provision that the spouse paying child support will maintain a policy that covers their support obligation. 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 is the award of support paid by one spouse to the other. There are several different types of alimony. 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.
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 paid after a divorce may be for a shorter-term duration, such as a few years, or maybe long-term.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering reaching an agreement with your spouse, call us first. We have extensive experience representing divorcing individuals and helping them reach an agreement. We can discuss the particular facts of your situation and what you may be entitled to under the law. We can also assist you with preparing a comprehensive settlement proposal to discuss with your spouse.
If you are considering entering into an agreement with your spouse, contact us today at (770) 536-0202 to schedule a confidential consultation.