Marital Settlement Agreements
When Can Your Issues Be Settled?
Matrimonial Settlements are very common in New Jersey. The vast majority of New Jersey divorce cases end up settling on or before the trial date assigned by the Court. In fact, it is always preferable for the parties to settle all or as many issues as they can prior to filing for a divorce. This will save time as well as legal fees. Ultimately, the Judge decides on the unresolved issues in the case. Increasingly, couple are employing the services of a mediator or use the collaborative divorce process, which uses a team approach to negotiating a settlement. More information about these alternatives can be found at www.njcollaborativeprofessionals.com.
Commonly referred to as an MSA or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), a marital settlement agreement is a written agreement that covers all of the issues that should be dealt with affecting separated or divorcing parties and their children. These issues include alimony or the waiver of alimony, child support where applicable, health insurance and payment of health care costs, life insurance, and distribution of assets and debts. Once finalized, the MSA/PSA is usually attached to and becomes part of the final judgment of divorce where one is sought. The language of the agreement is crucial as the words used define the parties’ rights moving forward after the divorce.
Matrimonial Settlement Agreements When There Are No Children
If there is no alimony payable by one party to the other, and the parties agree to a waiver of the right to seek alimony even in the future, the court will question whether the person waiving alimony understands that the waiver is final. Your attorney will be sure to explain to you the ramifications of an alimony waiver.
Matrimonial Settlement Agreements When There Are Children Of The Marriage
If there are children involved the court is required to ask for a Child Support Guidelines worksheet to be attached to the agreement. However, the parties can agree to vary from those support guidelines. The guidelines are found in the appendices to the NJ Rules of Court. Unlike alimony, child support cannot be waived.
Here are the areas the court will focus on in the divorce hearing when the parties have entered into a MSA:
• Both parties understand that by entering into the Marital Settlement Agreement that they are waiving their right to a trial where they could have given testimony and presented other forms of evidence, such as financial documents, text messages, emails and photographs,
• Both parties think that the agreement is reasonable and fair.
• Both parties feel that the Marital Settlement Agreement was voluntarily executed by both parties, free from any threats.
• Neither party is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication which would impair their ability to understand the proceedings in court.
• Both parties agree to be bound by the terms of the Marital Settlement Agreement.
• Both parties are satisfied with the services of their attorneys.
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