What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement is a legally binding contract. It specifies how money, property and other assets will be divided once a divorce has been granted. All essential items should be included in the agreement.
Marital settlement agreements are not the same as a separation or divorce. These documents won’t end a relationship or a marriage. A couple will still need to have their divorce granted by a judge in a court of law before the marriage can be officially ended.
Child custody, child support and alimony or spousal support may be included in the agreement. A child visitation schedule may be attached with this paperwork as well. Each person should have a copy and extra copies can be made for the divorce proceedings. The judge will evaluate the document to determine if the arrangements are reasonable and to ensure that one party doesn’t have an unfair advantage over the other.
Both parties should read the agreement thoroughly before signing.. It’s not uncommon for a marital settlement agreement to be revised multiple times. The document should also be notarized by an official notary. If the agreement is not written, signed and notarized, it may not be enforceable.
What are the Benefits of Having a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Although a marital settlement agreement isn’t mandatory, it can simplify the divorce process. Partners won’t be spending valuable hours arguing over who gets which items. Everything will be spelled out in plain language in the agreement. There should be no confusion or ambiguous language.
Couples who already have this type of arrangement may find it easier to obtain an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both parties have consented to the dissolution of the marriage. They already know how their marital and non-marital assets will be separated, who will have legal and physical custody of their children, how any alimony will be paid and child custody and visitation schedules. They don’t need those issues to be determined by a judge in a court of law.
At this time, the state of Maryland allows for verbal and written marital separation agreements. Written agreements can be proven rather quickly, if necessary. Verifying verbal agreements can be more difficult to confirm. Without proper documentation or witnesses, any claims that one party makes could be dismissed as hearsay.
The agreement may even be written into the divorce if couples choose to do so. This can help to decrease the attorney and court costs for both parties. Some partners may also opt to keep the marital settlement agreement apart from the divorce decree, so that the arrangement can be enforced all by itself if necessary.
A marital settlement agreement will remain valid even if spouses decide not to get divorced or opt to separate for a certain time period. Both people will need to agree before a settlement agreement can be revoked or declared no longer valid. If only one person wants to cancel the agreement or simply decides not to abide by the terms, the contract will remain valid.
All or parts of a marital settlement agreement may become irrelevant at certain points. For example, child custody, child support and child visitation schedules won’t apply once minor children that the couple had turn 18 years old. If one or both partners remarry, they will more than likely no longer be bound by the terms of the marital settlement agreement. Remarriage will also mean that any alimony payments that one partner paid to their former spouse will cease.
This kind of agreement cannot be used for couples who want to separate but aren’t planning on filing for divorce. Legal separation is not recognized in the state of Maryland at this time. Separation is currently defined as a situation where partners live in separate residences, don’t engage in sexual intercourse with each other, and who intend to eventually terminate their union. The length of time and reasons for the separation may be used as legal reasons for seeking a divorce.
How Can I Establish a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement can be set up at any time. Couples can draft their own documents or use the templates that can be downloaded or picked up at the respective local government office. They can also enlist the services of legal counsel to assist them with this task.
If you need help getting started, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll guide you through the process and listen to your concerns. Our trained professionals can assist with the paperwork and will answer any questions that you may have.
Before you start working on an agreement, consider all of the marital and non-marital assets that each person has. Lists can be created so that it’s easier to divide assets. Bank accounts, vehicles, real estate and retirement accounts should be listed. You can also decide who will be responsible for paying what court costs and attorneys’ fees if you’d like.
Marital settlement agreements can be a single page or encompass multiple pages. Just make sure that the essentials are listed. Remember that these agreements can be changed later if necessary.
Although these contracts may be uncomfortable, they can assist in the divorce process. Clearly identifying who will be responsible for which tasks leaves no room for doubt. Once a mutually beneficial agreement has been reached, couples are one step closer to effectively ending their marriage. They can start looking forward to a better and brighter future in the weeks, months and years to come.