Marital Settlement Agreements

Why Enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Most divorce cases can be resolved by the parties by entering into a marital settlement agreement, or MSA. This is often a cost-effective way to resolve issues outside of court. It also enables parties to create their own settlement terms and conditions, rather than having them imposed upon you. A marital settlement agreement can be negotiated through mediation or simply between the parties and their respective counsel. A marital settlement agreement governs the relationship of the parties after the divorce, and, as such, should encompass all terms of the divorce settlement. The MSA is binding and is subject to the enforcement powers of the court once both parties have signed the agreement.

What is Family Mediation?

Family mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party mediator acts to facilitate resolution of family law issues between parties through an informal and non-adversarial process to ultimately achieve a mutually acceptable agreement. Family mediation addresses all family matters of both married and unmarried persons. Family mediation can address parental responsibility, property division, child support, alimony, time-sharing, visitation, parenting plans, and any other related issues to be resolved by the parties in a dissolution of marriage proceeding. Negotiations are primarily conducted between the parties. We highly recommend attendance of counsel, although it is not required.

What if I Want to Settle with My Spouse without Mediation?

The parties may also wish to negotiate an agreement on their own or through counsel, without a mediator. Having a clear and precise MSA is essential to achieve a functioning home situation post-divorce. The parties would reach an agreement between themselves, then, one of the attorneys prepares an initial draft of the MSA and, with his or her client’s approval, sends the draft MSA to the other party through his or her counsel for review and comment. The parties will exchange drafts of the MSA to best articulate the parties’ understanding of the settlement and the parties’ respective positions. The parties will execute the MSA with their final terms and ultimate agreement. The MSA does not have to be filed with the court to be binding and effective.

Then, a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed and the MSA is presented to the court. The judge will schedule a short (usually about ten minutes) uncontested divorce hearing and the judge will enter the Final Judgment dissolving the marriage and adopting the MSA. If you have initiated divorce proceedings, to fully resolve such proceedings and to avoid bringing a separate action for enforcement, the MSA should be incorporated into a final judicial decree. Absent any evidence of fraud or duress, and if the court finds that both parties executed the agreement voluntarily, the court will enter the final judgment incorporating the parties’ marital settlement agreement.

The attorneys of Christy L. Hertz, P.A. have over 22 years of experience in negotiating and drafting marital settlement agreements for high-asset divorces and complex family issues. Their quality of work, legal expertise, drafting skills, and negotiation strategies guarantee a well-drafted and comprehensive marital settlement agreement. Their excellent communication skills ensure not only that your needs will be addressed, but that you will be fully informed throughout the negotiation and/or mediation process. Contact us if you need assistance with drafting your marital settlement agreement.