By: Carl A. Taylor III, Esq.

Sometimes the divorce process can become so bogged down in minutia and emotional baggage, that the final destination becomes obscured.  The final destination is almost always, of course, a formal divorce.  But divorce attorneys understand that it’s much more than that.  A divorce–if properly done–should also provide a sense of closure.  There will always be a few loose ends, but the divorce should crystalize the parties’ intent, and provide a roadmap for how to handle future issues.  This is the role of New Jersey Marital Settlement Agreements (a/k/a Divorce Agreements/Property Settlement Agreements).

For better or worse, most parties to a divorce will have some sort of relationship with their former spouse.  They will likely be bound together by shared children, friends, or other issues.  A divorce is the ultimate goal, but what are the “rules” post-divorce.  There will always be applicable law, but the Marital Settlement Agreement will in many ways become the law of the divorce.

In my opinion, the best Marital Settlement Agreement is one that can be a guide to handle post-divorce disputes between the parties–without having to involve attorneys or the court system.  For instance, what if you and your ex-spouse debate who gets to spend Thanksgiving with the children?  A good Marital Settlement Agreement will incorporate language addressing this issue.  It will say something like: “Husband shall have parenting time with the children each Thanksgiving from 8:00 a.m., until 5:00 p.m.., and the Wife shall have parenting time with the children each Thanksgiving after 5:00 p.m.”

A Marital Settlement Agreement that does not provide such guidance, may lead to the need for further court intervention.  I’ve had many clients say this level of detail is not necessary, because the parties will “work it out between themselves.”  That might be the case for some parties, but it doesn’t leave a fallback position should relationships sour.

The Marital Settlement Agreement encapsulates the disposition of issues in the divorce.  It should address some or all of the following:

  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Parenting Time
  • Equitable Distribution (of debt, retirement accounts, stock options, other bank accounts, cars, etc).
  • Custody
  • Medical Coverage
  • Life Insurance
  • Tax Credits for Dependents
  • Payment of College for Children, auto insurance for children, etc.
  • And much more.
The Marital Settlement Agreements that I craft for my clients are often 25-50 pages.  While some clients have suggested the level of detail may be overkill, I’m sure they are later grateful for a more detail-oriented approach when issues arise.  No Agreement can include a contingency for every issue, but it’s important to cover every conceivable issue as part of the divorce resolution.
Conclusion
New Jersey Marital Settlement Agreements are probably the most important document in the divorce process.  They will be used as evidence should the need for future court appearances be required (example – to modify child support).  It’s important that they are detail oriented and that your attorney has crafted them to incorporate the full Agreement, and to also insure that the Agreement is fair.  It’s not unusual for Agreements to be modified/negotiated ten or more times prior to the parties executing same prior to the entry of an uncontested divorce.
 Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.