When something is global, it addresses or involves every aspect of an issue. If you're divorcing, reaching a global agreement with your spouse generally means you've had a meeting of the minds on how to sever or tie up every possible string that holds you together. This includes custody and child support, if you have children. It also covers property division, debt division and alimony. It addresses retirement plans, the marital home – even disposition of a business, if you own one. Some states, such as New Jersey, don't use the word "global." They refer to such an agreement as "comprehensive."
If you have a global or comprehensive settlement agreement, you have an uncontested divorce. In some states, such as California, you won't even have to go to court – you can submit the agreement to a judge for signature and approval, and you'll be divorced. If you and your spouse disagree on even one small thing – such as how to structure parenting time so you can each see your children on holidays – your agreement isn't global, and you'll likely have to go to trial to have the judge decide any remaining issues.
Contested divorces typically take longer and cost more. The more issues you and your spouse disagree on, the more the process costs and the longer it takes. But negotiating a global agreement can take time as well. If you can reach an agreement before you or your spouse files for divorce, you can usually streamline the proceedings considerably.