When a couple in Florida seeks to get a divorce, they have the option to create and sign a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). This contract details specific terms and conditions of the divorce settlement. The provisions detailed within the MSA will vary from couple to couple based on their circumstances, however it will usually include any division of assets, division of debts, any support obligations (financial or otherwise), and other specifics negotiated and detailed by the divorcing couple.
While the details with regard to child support, custody, and visitation are generally included in a separate parenting plan that is attached to the MSA, the parenting plan may be referenced in the actual MSA itself.
By signing, both parties are agreeing to all the provisions included in the MSA, so oftentimes there may be a need for extensive negotiations with attorneys to reach equitable solutions to any disagreements over the terms of the divorce. Once the MSA is signed, the divorce is considered settled and it will be submitted to the court with your petition for divorce. At this point the parties to the MSA should only need to attend one hearing where they will receive a final judgement of divorce from a judge.
While Marital Settlement Agreements may not be perfect for every divorce, there are a number of major benefits to signing one. We’ve listed six of them below:
If you and your spouse are unable to agree upon certain terms regarding your divorce, then the courts will decide for you. The MSA gives you an opportunity to have control over the divorce settlement, and negotiate with your spouse to reach an equitable resolution, rather than leaving the decisions up to a judge.
Allow for Simplified Dissolution
The State of Florida offers the option for either a regular dissolution of marriage or a simplified dissolution of marriage. If you fulfill the requirements for a simplified dissolution (as we detailed in this blog [LINK to March 2014 2 of 2?]), which include the requirement for an MSA, you will face an expedited and usually more cost-effective divorce process.
MSA’s provide the potential for a relatively amicable split. Rather than fighting things out in court, you and your spouse will sit down and hash out your needs and what you believe is fair with regard to the terms of the divorce settlement. Obviously, this is not always possible and there may still be significant contention, but settling the terms of your divorce with an MSA is generally less adversarial than litigation.
Help avoid litigation
Signing an MSA can help you avoid the costly, time-consuming, and inherently contentious litigation process. If you and your spouse are able to agree to all terms, then there will be no need to litigate the case.
Limit scope of litigation
Sometimes, you and your spouse will be able to agree on some aspects of your divorce settlement but not others. In such cases, you can sign a Partial Marital Settlement Agreement that details some but not all aspects of the terms of your divorce. The unagreed upon terms will then be litigated in court, but the scope of litigation will be limited only to those aspects of your settlement.
Binding, enforceable contract
MSAs are both binding and enforceable by courts, ensuring that both parties will be required to adhere to all provisions outlined in your contract. If either party wants to change the terms of the MSA, they must seek to have the agreement legally modified by a judge.
If you are getting a divorce and you believe a Marital Settlement Agreement could be right for you, please contact the Vasquez de Lara Law Group today.