A Marital Settlement Agreement is a negotiated contract containing all the terms of a couple’s divorce action and specifically denotes what they are agreeing to. This document should be comprehensive as well as follow legal standards for enforceability. Therefore, it is important to employ the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney to aid in the drafting of your Marital Settlement Agreement.
Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities: Without discussion of the property acquired during the marriage, heated arguments and issues regarding financial downfalls may occur. It is important to make a clear and comprehensive list of all the assets and liabilities attributable to you and your spouse. These items include TVs, homes, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, businesses, insurance policies, furniture, jewelry, student loans, credit card debts, car loans, or mortgage debt. Within the distribution, you will be simply assigning a party to each asset and liability. When doing to it is important to note the values of these items and also consider the elements that the court would implement if you are unable to come to an agreement. After assignment it will be important to note if any items will be sold, such as the home and the specific details regarding the sale. For instance, the realtor to be used, who will pay for the upkeep of the home until sold, how the proceeds will be distributed, and the timeline of the sale. Or if a party is keeping the home, it will be important to note the specifics of refinancing the mortgage to remove the other spouse from responsibility. These items are commonly overlooked however can cause a great deal of litigation in the future.
Alimony: Alimony is also a critical part of an agreement as a party may waive their right to alimony, or the couple can come to an out of court agreement setting the terms of these payments. If a waiver occurs, it must be done expressly as this waiver may not be overcome absent substantial circumstances. However, if the couple agrees to an alimony award it is critical to first assess the requesting party’s need and the obligated party’s ability to pay. Generally, parties will use the financial affidavits of each spouse to determine the necessary financial assistance and ability. However, other factors may also be considered such as the length of the marriage, resources of the parties, standard of living established during the marriage, ages and health of the parties, or any other item that the couple deems should be accounted for. The parties can negotiate the amount, duration, and set events that will trigger the termination of the award. However, the parties should act prudently and discuss if the award is modifiable later on.
Child Support: Child support is one of the easier items to discuss in a settlement agreement as Florida Statute provides a specific formula for the determination of a proper support amount. The parties will take their individual incomes and combine them and determine where they fall on the guidelines chart. Then, the amount provided in the guideline will be divided between the parties on a percentage correlating to their income. After using the guidelines, the parties may consider the specific, and unique additional economic needs of your children, responsibility for health insurance, responsibility for uncovered medical expenses, cost of child care, cost of extracurriculars, the number of overnights spent with the child, when the support will terminate. The visitation and custody of the child will be discussed in a separate document labeled as a parenting plan.
Extras: Other items that are unique to your marriage may also need to be discussed in this agreement to properly determine the final, legal, or emotional responsibility for certain items. These items may include, health insurance, possession of pets, tax filings, purchase of life insurance to secure child support or alimony payments, preparation of deeds or QDROs, or the payment of attorney’s fees for the proceeding.
Your Marital Settlement Agreement is a binding contract and will be the governing document that controls your division of assets, debts, alimony, child support, and contain any other necessary terms agreed upon by you and your spouse. Being that this document must comply with both Florida Statute and consider all the necessary items in your specific divorce, it is crucial to have the assistance of an experienced Pensacola Divorce Attorney to ensure your document protects your interests and is legally enforceable.
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