Over 90% of all New Jersey divorces end by way of settlement, and less than 10% of all divorces end up in trial.
Most people filing for divorce in NJ are unaware that is what will occur. Upon the signing of the settlement agreement, it is possible to obtain a divorce judgment shortly thereafter. The divorce will proceed as an uncontested divorce. When resolving the divorce amicably, the parties enter a document called a marital settlement agreement.
How Does a Marital Settlement Agreement Work?
A marital settlement agreement is a contract that defines the terms of the divorce. A marital settlement agreement is a comprehensive agreement that contains all the words which will govern the party’s divorce. Every issue resolved concerning the divorce must be set forth with specificity in the body of the marital settlement agreement.
Knowing that your divorce will eventually resolve itself short of trial may make the decision whether to file for divorce seem a bit less overwhelming.
The marital settlement agreement will address such items as:
- Spousal support
- Custody of the minor children
- The agreement will set forth who is the custodial parent
- The amount of child support
- The allocation of college costs
- The providing of health insurance for the children after the divorce
- The equitable distribution of your marital assets
- The division of your marital property
- The division of marital debts and tax-related issues
- The allocation of legal fees.
- The maintenance of life insurance coverage to secure the support obligations as outlined in the parties agreement, etc.
Marital settlement agreements are typically anywhere from 20 to 50 pages in length.
The marital settlement agreement is a binding agreement with the same effect and authority as a court order. The drafting of the agreement typically takes place after the parties have exchanged all relevant financial information and have engaged in discussions with either an agreed-upon mediator or their respective attorney’s assistance.
Marital settlement agreements are so important because they will address future issues. The document governs your post-divorce life with your ex-spouse. The agreement can be modified or amended by either court order or mutual consent.
Negotiating Terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement
One of the first steps in negotiating the terms of a marital settlement agreement is to make sure that you completely understand all the financial aspects of the marriage. The prior year’s tax returns need to be exchanged and reviewed, and retirement and financial account information need to be analyzed as well. In addition, an appraisal on Real estate holdings may take place. Your divorce attorney needs to be provided with a comprehensive a picture as possible as it relates to your financial circumstances. Upon supplying the requested documentation, the attorneys then may seek to arrange for a meeting with the clients present and begin to formulate the terms of the marital settlement agreement.
Suppose there are disagreements relative to what the settlement terms should be. In that case, the attorneys will often jointly select a mediator to assist in helping bridge the gap between the parties’ competing positions.
The settlement agreement provisions addressing child-related issues must also be carefully thought out and drafted with precision to avoid problems down the road. An adequately prepared agreement will address as many prospective issues as possible to limit the chances of returning to court to address either ambiguous terms or unaddressed issues. Any side agreements or oral promises not explicitly referenced in a signed marital settlement agreement are not enforceable by the court. Therefore, all agreed-upon matters are reduced to writing and included in your settlement agreement.
Preparation of a Marital Settlement Agreement & The New Jersey Divorce Process
The drafting of your marital settlement agreement is one of the most critical aspects of your divorce proceeding. Carefully think out the drafting of the agreement to ensure its future enforce ability by the court.
Once a marital settlement agreement has been drafted and signed, the divorce will proceed rather seamlessly to its conclusion. Most parties going through the divorce process in New Jersey do not realize that the judge will not even read the agreement that the parties have entered. The judge is merely concerned that both parties agreed knowingly, voluntarily, and free of any coercion. The judge receives a signed version of the agreement attached to a proposed final judgment of divorce. The judge merely signs off on the proposed final judgment. The judge does not decide whether the agreement is fair; their inquiry is limited to the above mentioned issues.
Marital settlement agreements have substantial weight concerning their enforce ability and validity. The family courts in New Jersey typically enforce agreements so long as they are fair and just.
Enforcing a Marital Settlement Agreement
Enforcing a marital settlement agreement is accomplished by filing a request with the court to compel compliance. It is required when filing such an application that you demonstrate to the court how your ex-spouse failed to follow the terms of the agreement.
Hire a Divorce Lawyer to Start the Process
The divorce process can seem overwhelming at first to anyone contemplating going through such a life-changing event. However, the new Jersey family law and divorce lawyers at Villani and DeLuca have extensive experience drafting all types of marital settlement agreements. Before starting the divorce process, consult with an experienced New Jersey Family Law attorney so that you can receive legal advice that will put your mind at ease.