What are Washington DC Marital Settlement Agreements?
Marital settlement agreements can be used by couples who intend to file for divorce in Washington DC. The use of marital settlement agreements can resolve several issues without the interference of the court, in addition to making an uncontested divorce easier, quicker, and less costly.
Issues that divorcing and separating couples in Washington DC can resolve using a marital settlement agreement include:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Alimony and spousal support
- Visitation plans and parenting plans
- Property division, including the marital home
- Division of marital debts
- Protections of pre-marital assets or inherited assets
- Tax issues
- Separation laws
- Retirement and pension plans
- Health insurance matters, including payment of co-pays and other costs not covered by insurance for minor children
- Life insurance issues
- Resolution of future disputes
Even though the dissolution of a marriage can be amicable and friendly, specific issues and events that may occur that can derail a friendly divorce. As the couple begins to divide their home and live separate and apart, or as the parties begin to navigate the divorce process, a friendly, uncontested divorce could turn into an all-out war. Sadly, issues that should never have required litigation suddenly turn into massive points of contention that requires court intervention to resolve.
Why Do You Need a Marital Settlement Agreement?
As discussed above, marital settlement agreements can prevent small issues from turning into matters that require time-consuming, costly litigation to resolve. Therefore, one significant benefit of entering a marital settlement agreement is to address issues while you and your spouse can communicate effectively with each other.
However, if you wait until after a divorce action is filed, discussions between you and your spouse can become much more difficult and unproductive. By filing the divorce complaint, one spouse is placing the other spouse on guard as the defendant in the lawsuit, thereby making that spouse a little less likely to be “amicable” about all issues. Even though you can continue to negotiate a marital settlement agreement after a divorce action is filed with the court, you and your spouse will both incur the expenses of litigation and negotiations which is likely to be more expensive compared to filing an untested divorce with a marital settlement agreement.
Is Mediation a Beneficial Option for Developing a Marital Settlement Agreement?
For couples who want to pursue a marital settlement agreement, but who may be in a phase in which they cannot negotiate together because of hurt feelings or anger, the court encourages mediation as one potential means of resolving conflicts between the parties. Mediation can take place before or after the filing of a divorce complaint and offers many benefits for the parties.
When clients can resolve differences to arrive at a marital settlement agreement with the advice, counsel, and guidance of an experienced DC divorce attorney, then significant reductions of expected legal fees can be achieved. Our law office strives to be efficient in handling cases and not press litigation to run up billable hours.
Do Judges Prefer Marital Settlement Agreements?
You often hear judges discuss the merits of the parties working together to resolve issues related to a divorce. While marital settlement agreements can save time, decrease costs, and provide more privacy and protection of information for the parties, many judges also see another important benefit of marital settlement agreements.
Because the spouses understand the needs of the parties, children, and other family members, the spouses are in a much better position to reach a mutually acceptable marital settlement agreement. Spouses have “lived” what the court is hearing as facts presented by witnesses. Therefore, couples have a better understanding of the sensitive issues faced within their family compared to a judge who has only heard certain facts and may have only seen the parties for a few hours before rendering his decision.
Reasons judges like to see fairly and equitably negotiated marital settlement agreements include:
- Physical Custody of Minor Children — The actual location of the child’s residence (either mom or dad). It is vital for a child to have a “home” that he or she understands belongs to him or her. Parents working together can help their child feel more secure and loved regarding of the physical home the child will spend most of his or her time.
- Legal Custody of Minor Children — In addition to physical custody, parents need to determine which parent will have legal custody or whether they will have shared legal custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions for your child, including education, health care, religion, extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, and other major life decisions. Again, children are the winners and greatly benefit when parents can work together.
- Child Support — Child support is calculated under the Washington DC child support guidelines. However, parties can agree to consent to the guidelines and work out other costs for the child, including uncovered medical expenses, special clothing, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- Alimony — Again, the District’s laws governing alimony apply to a proposed agreement; however, by working together, the parties can develop an agreement that is best for them instead of allowing a judge to make the final decision.
- Division of Assets and Debts — Dividing property and debts is another thorny issue for many couples going through the divorce process. However, as with all the other issues above, working together to agree to a marital settlement agreement that includes divisions of property and debts can reduce stress and avoid anger while making sure each party has the items and resources need to provide for themselves and their children.
By pursuing uncontested divorces, you can save time and money, in addition to reducing the stress caused by arguing over every small issue within your divorce proceeding.
Our Washington DC divorce lawyers can help you negotiate a marital settlement agreement that can make your divorce action, especially an uncontested divorce action, move quickly and smoothly through the court system.
Are You Ready to Negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Contact the Law Offices of Paul D. Hunt by calling 202-463-1965 to discuss the details of your case and how our Washington DC divorce attorneys can help you find the most effective, efficient, and economical manner to end your marriage. We want to find a solution for you that protects your best interests and the best interests of your children.