Every aspect of your divorce may seem painfully personal, but most separating couples face similar issues. While a dissolution agreement, also known as a marital settlement agreement or a stipulation of settlement, must be tailored to the individual circumstances of the spouses, most agreements address similar issues. Forms available from family court or an online legal services provider offer an outline of the typical format.
Divorces can be expensive, time consuming and downright ugly. The key to a faster resolution with less collateral damage is often a negotiated agreement between the two spouses. It may not be easy to work out issues with someone who is leaving you, but working out a settlement may be less stressful than the alternatives. Couples who find the task daunting can consider using a neutral mediator to assist in negotiations. In some jurisdictions, mediators are provided by the court system.
You don't have to accuse your spouse of wrongdoing to get a divorce any more; no-fault divorce is available in every state. Essentially, that means that if either spouse decides to end a marriage, the other cannot stop him. Given that fact, negotiated settlement agreements are well worth considering. Not only can you save on attorney fees, eliminate nasty court scenes and limit the emotional displays the kids have to witness, but divorce-by-agreement cases generally move faster through the court docket while contested cases wait in line.
A dissolution is the end of a marriage and everything owned or owed as a couple must be divided between them. To execute a dissolution agreement, the spouses must negotiate who gets what property and who pays what debt. Child custody is another issue that must be addressed by couples with minor children, and a typical settlement agreement resolves legal custody (who participates in making important legal decisions for the children) and physical custody (where the kids live) matters. Child and spousal support should also be addressed in the agreement.
Format for Agreement
Whether you hire an attorney to write up your settlement agreement or use a form approved in your state, the document typically follows a similar format. First, it identifies the parties to the divorce, the date of their marriage and separation, and the pending court action. It lists out the marital property and debt to be divided between the spouses and their agreement as to that division. Some agreements also list out the separate property of each spouse. The agreement may then identify the couple's children by name, sex and birth date, and specify the parenting plan the spouses have worked out, as well as child support and spousal support amounts. Often insurance policies are listed, specifying which spouse pays for each type of insurance. Finally, the agreement is signed by the parties according to state rules, often before a notary.