As couples go through the often difficult process of divorce, many things need to be sorted out. From, the division of properties, distribution of financial obligations to child custody, and alimony, a settlement agreement can help streamline these processes and save both parties time and money. But you have to keep in mind that a settlement agreement is not an easy document to write.
Here are 11 tips to help you write a settlement agreement that will save you time and money
1. Determine Your Goals
When divorcing, it is important to have realistic expectations of what can be gained and what can be lost. Are you looking to save money, and get things settled as quickly as possible, or are you hoping for a pleasant resolution? Many couples rush into a settlement agreement without first determining their goals, which can lead to difficulty settling on a settlement agreement. It is important to consider any children involved in the divorce, any debts or assets that need to be divided, and any other concerns that may need to be addressed before signing a settlement agreement. Once you know your goal, it is much easier to write a settlement agreement that meets those goals.
2. Establish a timeline
Establishing a timeline within which the settlement agreement must be finalized is essential to ensure that both parties stay on track with the settlement. If one party feels that the timeline is being stretched, they may feel that they have little to gain by signing the agreement. Conversely, if the timeline is not set, it may be difficult to determine when all of the necessary documents have been submitted and the settlement process can begin. This timeline should include a timetable for each stage of the settlement process: drafting, reviewing, signature and delivery. If there are any delays, it is important to communicate this to your spouse so that they know what is expected of them and do not feel like they are being taken advantage of.
3. Define Your Terms
When writing a settlement agreement, it is important to be specific about what you are agreeing to. Are you both releasing each other from all financial responsibility? Do you both agree to never speak negatively about the other again? Be as clear as possible in your terms so that there are no surprises down the road.
3. Address Property Issues
Some common property issues that may need to be addressed in a divorce settlement agreement include: who will keep the house, what share of the marital assets each person should receive, and how any debts will be paid. Other important details could include how long each party will stay living in the marital home and whether either party wants any joint properties or money moved into a separate account.
4. Establish Child Custody and Support
One of the first steps in creating a settlement agreement is to establish who will have custody of the children. This may seem like an easy decision, but oftentimes this decision can be contentious. It is important to consider each parent’s relationship with the children as well as their abilities to provide a healthy home for them. Additionally, it may be helpful to have outside experts review the situation, to ensure that all factors are considered during custody negotiations.
Once child custody has been established, it is important to determine what type of support each parent will provide for the children. This may include things like visitation schedules and monetary payments. It is also important to specify who makes the major decisions on behalf of the children (i.e. changing schools) and how disputes will be resolved. Finally, it is helpful to create an “estate plan” that provides for child support should either parent become deceased.
5. Stay cooperative
The goal of a settlement agreement is to resolve disputes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Sticking to the terms of the agreement is the best way to achieve this goal.
5. Set Up Financial Obligations
Many couples struggle with financial obligations after a divorce. It’s important to address these in your settlement agreement so there are no surprises down the road. This may include details such as who is responsible for paying utility bills, rent, or other expenses.
6. Specify Who Will Be Responsible For What
One way to do this is to list each responsibility and give specific examples. For example, one spouse might be responsible for paying the bills, while the other takes on mortgage. Another couple might agree that one spouse will stay home with the children while the other travels. In essence, the agreement should state exactly which responsibilities each partner will take on and when they are due. This way, spouses can clearly understand what is expected of them with each individual being responsible in the case of a breach.
7. Make Sure You Have A Date By Which The Agreement Must Be Signed
It’s important to have a date by which the agreement must be signed. This will help make sure everything is agreed upon and done before moving forward with the divorce.
8. Include A Disclaimer Of Warranties
A settlement agreement should always include a disclaimer of warranties. Each party should understand that the agreement is not a guarantee that either side will come out ahead in the end. Rather, it is intended to provide clarity about what each party expects and allows for fair resolution of any disputes or disagreements.
9. Include A Contingency Plan For Unresolved Issues
Both parties need to have a plan in place for any unresolved issues that may arise during the divorce process. This includes exploring potential settlements, dealing with custody and visitation issues, and creating a contingency plan in case of future conflict.
10. Make Sure The Agreement Is Defined Clearly
Spouses should ensure that terms included in the settlement agreement are clearly defined with both parties expressly agreeing to them. Ambiguous terms can quickly become a hot-bed future conflicts. A defaulting party would always result to this “vague” term when looking for loopholes in the settlement agreement.
11. Get Professional Help
Finally, If you are unable to agree to draft a settlement agreement on your own, it is advisable to seek professional help from a lawyer.
Remember, divorce is not the end of the world. It is possible to move on with your life. However, you can always ensure that you are ready for the challenges that come with divorce by drafting a divorce settlement agreement!
Note: These tips are not meant to be a comprehensive guide to divorce settlement, but rather a primer on the key considerations that should be taken into account when preparing an agreement.