AgreementAn uncontested divorce is the easiest way for the couple to end their marriage. It considerably saves both time and money as well as prevents both spouses from extra stress. In an uncontested divorce, you do not need to hire costly attorneys, visit countless court hearings that can last for years, and fight for each issue before the judge. All you need to do is discuss everything in the comfort of your home and come out with a divorce settlement agreement.
What Is a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
A divorce settlement agreement is a legal document drafted by the couple that is going to get divorced, which outlines all the agreements between them and the terms of their divorce. It normally contains the provisions for all the important controversial points of the marriage and separation, including the division of property, mutual business, debts, accounts, and other assets as well as child custody, parental visitations, spousal support, alimony, and other possible issues. A filing spouse may offer a divorce proposal, and the partner can agree or disagree, offering their terms. In case a final agreement cannot be reached, the spouses may involve a mediator or even hire an attorney to help them with the negotiations.
Yes, even though this way is the easiest, you may still need some legal assistance from the experts to make sure that the document is drafted correctly and there will be no need to do it afresh. If you try to google how to file for divorce in Allegheny county, for example, you can get a lot of useful information on what to do in case you decided to separate amicably, get to know the local attorneys’ fees, and even find the necessary forms to be filled in and templates of marital agreements with tips and recommendations on writing them. However, even if you resort to consultations from an experienced lawyer, it will be cheaper than a lengthy court trial.
Nevertheless, even in this case, you are not exempt from a judicial process since the legality of your divorce must be legally asserted. The form of your settlement agreement must be submitted to the court for approval, and the judge will define the suitability and fairness of the arrangements before making the divorce judgement and signing the final order. Still, no court hearings, dispute negotiations in front of the judge, and attorneys’ interference will be involved, which is much more time- and cost-saving.
Steps to Take in Drafting a Divorce Settlement Agreement
Even if the relations in a couple deciding to divorce are friendly or at least neutral, it may be rather difficult for them to come to all the necessary agreements amicably and calmly. There are sure to be issues one of them will try to confront, and no one wants to appear on the losing side. While the attorney’s interference is not obligatory, it may sometimes be beneficial to involve one just to be guided in the right direction during the negotiations. Besides, an experienced professional can provide the necessary help with preparing all the paperwork correctly, so that the documents were written thoroughly, clearly, accurately, and in a detailed and focused way to cover all the possible aspects and avoid probable repercussions. Here, we offer some useful tips on what steps to take and how to write a divorce settlement agreement.
Start with the Basics
The first step to take is to find the template for the divorce settlement agreement. Such a template will provide vivid guidance on how to draft this document and will also prompt the necessary issues to consider in the process of your negotiations. If you are not sure where to start, try searching online for information on how to file for divorce in your location. Remember that each state and even every county may have its own requirements and standards that must be observed.
Include the Detailed Information
To be legally valid, the divorce settlement agreement must contain all relevant information about the marriage.
Normally, the basic mandatory details include:
- Both spouses’ names
- Both spouses’ dates of birth
- Date and location of marriage
- Date of separation
- Names, dates of birth, and ages of all minor children you have (children under the age of 18)
- Names changes (if applicable)
- Addresses of both spouses and their children’s residence for the last five years
- Grounds for divorce
After all the basic details are specified, the main portion of the agreement should present detailed provisions on all the possessions, obligations, and rights of both spouses. They may include some or all of the following:
- Child support and custody arrangements
- Parental visitation arrangements
- Spousal support terms and conditions
- Division of spousal property and assets provisions
- Debt and liabilities allocation
- Retirement benefits arrangements
- Life and health insurance (if applicable)
- Dependents (if any)
- Disclosures (if applicable)
- Any additional required provisions
In the end, you need to add:
- Both spouses’ signatures
Things often overlooked in divorce agreements are normally some minor details that may seem trivial, non-important, and self-evident or taken for granted while you are married. In most cases, they become the reason for the judge’s disapproval or future repercussions. Therefore, it is extremely important not to omit a single detail and make sure that all of them are discussed in detail in your document.
Draft a Parenting Plan for Custody and Visitation
The matters that concern children (if you have any) are the most important ones in the divorce settlement agreement. Thus, the first thing to do is to decide on joint or sole custody. No matter how friendly are the relations between you and your spouse, loads of issues will determine which type is the best option in your specific situation. Thus, try to be reasonable and consider this issue wisely.
Here are some general child custody statistic facts:
In case of sole custody, visitation rights for the non-custodial parent must be outlined in detail: days of the week and exact hours of the day during which they can visit or meet the children, plans for the vacations, holidays, and other events, places for the non-custodial parent to meet with children, etc. A detailed parenting-time plan must be devised to avoid any possible disputes and inconveniences.
Decide on Child Support and Alimony
Child support arrangements are one of the key issues in the agreement. In the case of sole custody, the couple should decide on the sum and distribution of payments made by the non-custodial parent to support their children’s basic living needs. This decision must be made considering the specific state’s requirements though.
Alimony is the financial support provided for one of the spouses by another party. The issue is totally personal and must be discussed and decided upon by the partners amicably, including all the details concerning its amount and duration.
If any child support or alimony payments by one of the parties are involved, life and health insurance provisions must be included in the agreement. This step is necessary to ensure the continuation of payments in case the paying spouse passes away.
Define and Split Assets and Debts
Generally, laws on property and debt division vary across the states. While some states apply an equitable distribution model, when the specific case circumstances and the parties’ needs are considered while splitting marital assets, others are ruled by the community property model, in which they are split fairly equally irrespective of any accompanying facts or circumstances. Thus, it is important to research the divorce laws in your location before drafting a divorce proposal.
It is important to note that only marital property, all assets obtained for the money from the marital budget during the marriage, is divided. All the property acquired before the marriage as well as personal inheritance and gifts, which is defined as separate, remains with the owner. The same refers to debts: debts that were sustained before the marriage or the ones that are in one spouse’s name only are personal and are the responsibility of this spouse. Joint debts, including all mortgages, bank loans, car payments, student loans, and credit card debts, must be split between the parties the way they decide.
Make a Finishing Touch
When your divorce settlement agreement is ready, you must proofread it several times to make sure that there are no mistakes and that not a single issue was omitted. If you did your homework diligently and researched how to file for divorce, you are definitely closer to success than if you started unprepared. Now, go through the guidelines and templates that you have discovered in the process of your research to see that you have addressed every single issue to be sure that no misconceptions will harm your divorce agreements.
To better remember the order of actions, we created this infographic: