Divorce laws in all 50 states, together with family law judges, work towards achieving a settlement of divorce cases as opposed to resolution through a trial. The underlying theory is that the parties (and their children) are best served minimising the animosity that arises in divorce proceedings by avoiding trials when at all possible. As you contemplate filing for divorce or moving forward with a case in progress, you need to understand the basics of preparing a divorce settlement agreement.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Written divorce settlement agreement
Itemise on a master list the various matters at issue between you and your spouse. Make certain that you include all issues pending in your divorce case - from property division to child custody to alimony and all else.
Note the agreement you reached with your spouse regarding each issue raised in regard to the divorce case.
Obtain a standard form settlement agreement to use or a template to follow to prepare your own individualised agreement. The clerk of the court where your divorce case is to be filed or is pending likely maintains sample forms or templates for your use.
Complete each section of the divorce settlement agreement.
Insert specific details regarding the division of assets and debts, specifically spelling out which party receives specific items of property and is responsible for individual debts.
Set forth the complete agreement regarding the custody, parenting time (visitation) and financial support of children born of the marriage (if there are children). Do not make general statements regarding these matters. Specifically delineate the actual agreement regarding these issues.
Include any agreement pertaining to spousal maintenance or alimony, including the amount and duration of the obligation.
Acknowledge in the agreement that you and your spouse confronted irreconcilable differences with no reasonable hope of reconciliation. Reference that you both jointly seek a termination of the marriage.
Execute the divorce settlement agreement. The laws regarding how to sign a divorce settlement agreement differ from state to state. Determine in advance whether you and your spouse must sign in front of a notary public.
Tips and warnings
- Preparing a divorce settlement agreement--indeed, pursuing a divorce generally--involves following complex laws and complicated procedures. Your interests likely are better served by retaining the services of an experienced attorney as opposed to undertaking these matters on your own. The local and state bar associations maintain directories of attorneys in different practice areas. Contact information for these organisations is available through the American Bar Association:
- American Bar Association
- 321 N. Clark St.
- Chicago, IL 60654-7598
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