What is a Marital Settlement Agreement and Who Benefits From it?

Divorce is a common and often stressful experience in the married world. To reduce stress, and money spent on legal proceedings, many couples seek to negotiate a marital settlement agreement that outlines the terms of the divorce and what each party expects in financial compensation. 

What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?

A marital settlement agreement is an agreement between spouses that resolves any disputes and disagreements within the context of their marriage. These agreements can be made before, during, or after a divorce and can cover a wide range of topics, including finances, child custody, and property division. 

Typically, a marital settlement agreement helps spouses avoid future conflicts. It does this by creating a form of clarity and certainty for both parties involved and ensures all issues to be resolved are done so in a way that is fair to both sides.

Who Does a Marital Settlement Agreement Benefit?

As earlier stated, a marital settlement agreement made before a divorce can help avoid future conflict and save both parties time and money. If made during or after a divorce, it can help to resolve any disputes that may have arisen and ensure that parties are treated fairly. Some people who may directly or indirectly benefit from a Marital Settlement Agreement include:

The parties to the marriage

Marital settlement agreements are often beneficial to both parties in a marriage because it provides clarity on the financial, legal, and custodian responsibility of each spouse. This way, they get to protect their legal rights and interests in the event of a divorce or separation. 

Ordinarily, a spouse who is less financially stable would benefit from a marital settlement agreement, since the document will provide some level of financial security long after the divorce is finalized. A high-earning spouse also benefits from these agreements by drafting terms protecting their financial investments from the uncertainty that comes with divorce proceedings.

In a nutshell, marital settlement agreements can benefit spouses by:

  • reducing possible emotional stress or tension from spiteful divorce proceedings;
  • providing clarity and with a well-detailed standing of each party in the marriage; and
  • by resolving potential problems that could arise from child custody, debt settlements, spousal maintenance, tax liabilities, property division, etc.

Children

When a couple divorces, the lives of their children are often greatly affected. Having a marital settlement agreement in place with well-defined parental responsibility can help ease the burden of divorce on your child.

Other related parties

A marital settlement agreement benefits not only the spouses and their children but also any other party who may have a claim against the couple. This includes creditors, landlords, and anyone who may have a claim on marital assets or debts.  In addition, people who may have been financially impacted by the divorce or separation, such as alimony, child support recipients or beneficiary may also benefit from a settlement agreement.

It is important to consult with an attorney to ensure that all of your interests are represented in a marital settlement agreement.

What are the Requirements for a Marital Settlement Agreement?

The requirement for a marital settlement agreement varies across different states in the U.S. Generally, the requirements for a marital settlement agreement are the same as those for any other written contract. There must be at least two parties and it must be in writing and adequately signed by parties to the agreement. Additionally, the parties involved in the agreement must have agreed to its terms. 

What is Included in a Marital Settlement Agreement?

A marital settlement agreement can include any number of provisions. Some common provisions include: 

  • parenting time and custody arrangements for children;
  • financial arrangements, including alimony and child support;
  • division of property; and
  • whether one spouse will receive spousal support after the divorce is finalized.

Can a marital settlement agreement be changed?

Yes, it is possible to change a settlement agreement. If one spouse feels that a term in the agreement is not beneficial to them, they can seek legal advice on how to change these terms. However, it is important to note that a marital settlement agreement cannot be retroactively changed – it can only be amended in writing.

Conclusion

Marital settlement agreements do not benefit parties equally in the marriage.  This agreement would need to undergo a series of negotiations to arrive at terms that are considered fair to each party. If one party refuses to negotiate or agrees to an unfavorable deal without fully understanding its implications, this could lead to significant problems down the road. 

So, before signing a settlement agreement, be sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney to make sure you are getting the most out of your marital settlement agreement.

 

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