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Standard Provisions of a Marital Settlement Agreement

Divorce written out in blocks

The main goal of every divorce case is to reach an agreement with your spouse and to memorialize the terms of that agreement in a written and signed Marital Settlement Agreement.  Depending on the issues in your case, the Marital Settlement Agreement must address a variety of issues.

First, if children are involved, custody and parenting time must be considered and addressed.  The parties must identify if they are going to share joint legal custody as well as the designation of the Parent of Primary Residence and the Parent of Alternate Residence.  A parenting plan needs to be specified and this plan should include a regular schedule as well as a schedule for holidays, vacations, and other school breaks.  The Marital Settlement Agreement generally includes language which assures each parent’s continued right to access medical and health related records as well as school related records.  Language is added to ensure each parent’s right to continue to be involved in the children’s school events and functions as well as extracurricular activities and sporting events.  Any special circumstance or issue surrounding the children should be addressed in the Agreement.

Other issues relating to the children must also be in the Agreement.  Child support, contribution to camp, day care, activities, extraordinary activities, private school tuition and costs, health insurance, and unreimbursed health expenses need to be addressed.  The issues surrounding college should also be included such as the manner for the selection of college, the allocation of college tuition payment, and the parties’ understanding as to whether loans will be secured to fund college.  Life insurance is another issue that must be addressed as there must be enough insurance to secure both the child support and college contribution obligations.  The definition of emancipation should be spelled out and any special needs of the child which would alter or delay emancipation must be considered.

If alimony is involved in the settlement, the Agreement must provide the amount to be paid and the duration of the payment.  Circumstances of when it is to end or be reviewed must be addressed. Provisions regarding modifiability or non-modifiability are also important elements to consider.  Life insurance to secure the alimony must be included in the Agreement.

The Agreement also must identify each and every asset and debt and allocate them.  This includes real estate, mortgages, lines of credit, home equity loans, timeshares, automobile loans, investment property, credit cards, retirement assets, employment provided assets, student loans, and ownership interests in a business.

Tax issues such as dependency deductions, tax credits, rebates, and other tax considerations must be addressed.

Future participation in mediation in the event of a dispute or the involvement of a parent coordinator for custody and parenting time issues are standard clauses as well as an agreement that the breaching party pays for the non-breaching party’s counsel fees in the event of a breach and a resulting enforcement application to the Court.

The Marital Settlement Agreement is a very important document as it is the roadmap for your post-divorce life.  It is crucial that all issues important to you and relevant in your case are addressed, resolved, and contained in your Agreement.

If you have any questions or concerns about this post or any other matrimonial or family law issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at jllawrence@nmmlaw.com.