When divorcing spouses agree on the terms and conditions of their divorce, they write a divorce settlement agreement on their own or with the help of a legal professional. The settlement covers everything from child custody and visitation to the division of property and other assets.
Your settlement will dictate how things are handled after your divorce for years to come. It’s essential that you cover all possible points of contention now and those that may arise in the future to avoid a costly trip to court.
6 Tips on Creating a Lasting Divorce Settlement Agreement
1. Get legal advice
A lawyer will make sure you don’t leave out any important details and that your rights are protected. Plus, they know how to structure and word a settlement properly so that it holds up. Even if you draft your own agreement, you can hire a lawyer to review it. Getting a lawyer’s input is especially important if you have complex issues like multiple properties or a high income.
2. Don’t leave out any details
Make your agreement as detailed as possible. Include the date of your marriage and separation and the names and birthdates of both spouses, as well as the names and birthdates of all your minor children. Leaving out this information could invalidate your settlement.
Be specific about how you’ll divide property, how much of the marital assets each parent will get, and when and how often a parent will pay spousal or child support. Include a parenting time schedule showing when you’ll have the children day-to-day and during holidays and vacations.
These details will make it difficult for the other person to challenge the terms of your settlement down the line.
3. Set out times to review your agreement for necessary changes
Circumstances change over the years. Consider including a statement that you will meet to reexamine your divorce settlement at a later date. For example, “Spouse A and Spouse B will meet in person to reevaluate the terms and conditions of the settlement in (month, year).”
When covering child custody, account for how things will change as your child gets older. You could include a step-up parenting plan, which changes as your child ages. Also, state what will happen if there’s a reason to change custody, like a parent moving out of state.
4. Review the settlement before signing
Make sure you and your spouse read over the settlement individually to make sure you truly agree on everything. If there’s something in the settlement that one of you doesn’t fully agree with, try to figure out how you can change it to make it work. It’s better to address it before signing off on the agreement than after when resolving the issue could result in a return to court.
Once you draft your agreement, proofread it for mistakes and typos.
5. Be respectful
Maintaining an amicable relationship with the other spouse is often enough to dissuade them from violating the terms of the settlement. You could even include a clause in your agreement that you’ll communicate respectfully and not disparage one another in front of your children.
6. Make it official
Once you draft your settlement, both spouses should sign it in front of a witness, usually a notary. You should also make sure you get your settlement on file with the court so you can get an official divorce judgment. Without one, there’s a chance the other spouse will file for divorce later on. The judge who hears your case could order an arrangement that is wildly different from what you initially agreed to.
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