Property Settlement Agreements
A property settlement agreement, also known as a marital settlement agreement (MSA) or a Florida divorce settlement agreement, is a contract between divorcing spouses that sets the terms of their divorce. When couples divorce, they may have to negotiate agreements regarding child custody and support, spousal or partner support (also called alimony), as well as distributing assets and debts between them.
Marital settlement agreements do not have to include specific information related to child support. If they do not, the state will handle this arrangement. The court must review and approve the agreement; if it determines that it is fair to all parties involved, it can be signed into an order of the court as a final judgment of divorce.
Why Should I Get a Property Settlement Agreement
Contrary to popular belief, most divorce settlement agreements are created outside of the court system. Usually, both spouses agree to the exact terms of their agreement prior to a judge reviewing it. This eliminates the need for a judge to lay out such an arrangement as both parties have had input in creating it, rather than being forced into such an arrangement by a third party.
What If We Don’t Agree?
Both spouses should sign a marital settlement agreement only if they fully understand its contents and are reasonably satisfied with its outcomes. Settlements can take months or years to negotiate, so do not expect to sign an agreement the day after you decide to divorce. If you are not sure what terms you want in your settlement, you may want to consult with an attorney who can help you understand your options before negotiations begin.
Why You Should Have a Family Law Attorney Prepare and Review Your Settlement Agreements
Even in amicable divorces, it is recommended that both parties have their attorneys review the settlement agreement. Since legal language can be difficult to understand, it’s in your best interest to have your own attorney review and explain the agreement to you. Avoiding this step could land you in trouble later when you don’t realize you’ve given up some rights.
Don’t Sign it if you Don’t Understand it!
It is unwise to sign a legal document without thoroughly understanding its implications. You should not sign unless you are completely agreeable to the terms and plan to abide by them. Once the agreement is signed, it represents a legal document that you have stated you will follow.
It is advised that you have your own legal counsel review the document. This person will not be the same attorney that your ex-spouse has engaged and should protect your rights as they are distinct from theirs.
Don’t Write Your Own Settlement Agreements
It doesn’t pay to draft your own agreement. Just like in other areas of life, it’s cheaper to hire a professional at the outset than reinvent the wheel—or worse yet, have no wheels at all when you get into trouble later on down the road.
Can’t We Both Use the Same Attorney?
When both spouses are represented by the same attorney, there is a risk that the agreement may not be in their best interests. An attorney can draft a marital settlement agreement, but each spouse should have his or her own attorney review it to ensure fairness.
What if the Agreement Doesn’t Work?
Even if both you and your ex-spouse agree on a change to the terms of your marital agreement, make sure that it’s still in writing. Even if you’ve had a verbal arrangement, your ex might return back to court on the grounds that you’re not following what the original agreement said. A judge will be more likely to honor the original written agreement if both you and your ex signed off on the changes. In that case, you might need a team like Thompson Law.