The Importance of Property Settlement Agreements
Posted August 4, 2022
At the time of a divorce, parties who are able to settle all issues that have been in dispute will usually enter into a Property Settlement Agreement, also referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement. These agreements should address all matters related to the marriage and its dissolution, including child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, the distribution of assets, payments of debts and liabilities, and contributions for attorney’s fees, among other issues.
Courts treat Property Settlement Agreements as enforceable contacts. A Property Settlement Agreement, entered at the time of divorce, is no less binding than a contractual agreement to resolve a business dispute. At the final divorce hearing, a Judge or attorney will generally ask the parties if they entered into the agreement freely, voluntarily, and without any undue influence or coercion from another person.
Agreements that are consensual and voluntarily entered into are not lightly disturbed because Courts view mutually acceptable agreements to be the optimal resolution of a marital dispute, as opposed to a full-blown trial which can be time-consuming and expensive. Absent some compelling reason to depart from the clear and plain language of a fully executed agreement, Courts are bound to enforce the terms of the Property Settlement Agreement as written.
Since Courts will not unnecessarily modify amicably reached agreements between divorced litigants, it is crucial that parties read and understand each and every term of their binding contract. Unless there is some compelling reason for a Court to interject and change the terms of an agreement, parties will be expected to comply with each obligation and responsibility outlined in the Property Settlement Agreement. If a party fails to comply with the agreement, they could be subject to a Motion to Enforce Litigant’s Rights which may result in an adverse award of counsel fees.
It is strongly recommended that parties involved in divorce proceedings retain experienced family law attorneys to carefully negotiate, draft, and review Property Settlement Agreements before pen meets paper. Please contact me if you have any questions about this blog or your Property Settlement Agreement.
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