family law lawyer

5 Things to include in all marital settlement agreements

Marital Separation Agreements are unlike any other kind of legal contract. Rather than bringing an end to a lawsuit, they establish the ground rules for the future, post separation, relationship and they must be drafted with that in mind.

With and eye on the future, here are 5 things to always include in a divorce or separation agreement.

  1. Mediation: Mediation is required in all cases except Family Court emergencies and contempt. If new issues arise, a provision requiring mediation will short cut much of the preliminary litigation and in most cases help the parties get down to the “brass tacks”.
  2. Tie Breakers: When kids are involved, one person must have the authority to make final decisions for major medical and educational issues. The parents can split this authority, or one person can have both. Failure to name a primary parent(s) will cause the parents lots of trouble in the future.
  3. Payment of Child Support: If child support is to be paid directly from one party to the other, there should also be a provision requiring payments to be made through the State Disbursement Unit should the obligated party be more than 5 days late with any payment. This will avoid need for the obligee to prosecute his or her own child support case, and permit the matter to be enforced by the Court.
  4. Life Insurance: If child support/spousal support/and or alimony is involved, it is often a good practice to “secure” the outstanding amount by requiring the obligated party to obtain or maintain a life insurance policy naming the obligee as beneficiary for the amount of the outstanding obligation.  No special life insurance policy is required, and most people choose an inexpensive term policy.
  5. Hold Harmless: If one party is to take responsibility for payment of a joint, marital debt, they must also agree to “indemnify, defend and hold harmless against all liability”.  While this won’t help with creditors, the family court will take it seriously and punish a party willfully violating a hold harmless requirement. 

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