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Marital Settlement Agreements

When parties are going through a divorce, decisions must be made as to how to divide the marital assets and debts. Rather than fully litigating these matters through the Courts, the parties are often able to reach an agreement as to the distribution outside of Court. It is important, however, that these agreements are enforceable in case one parties later decides not to comply with the agreement. A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is a contract between divorcing spouses which specifies how their marital estate and debts shall be divided. It may also contain provisions regarding the award of alimony; the sale of the marital residence; tax filings and any other provisions the parties deem necessary.

An MSA allows the parties in a divorce matter to avoid costly litigation regarding their marital estate. If the parties are able to come to an agreement on how they will divide their marital estate, and any other divorce-related matters, then it is not necessary for them to ask the court to settle these matters. An MSA also allows the parties to maintain control over the final resolution. When the parties as the Court to decide the matter for them, they have no control over the decision that the Judge will make. If unhappy with the decision made by the Judge, the parties then need to explore the additional cost of an appeal of the Judge’s decision.

In preparing a MSA, the provisions included in an MSA vary widely, depending on the individual needs and desires of the parties involved. Both parties must be fully aware of not only the types of assets, property, and debts that are part of the marital estate, but also the values of each. The parties should consider the appropriateness of an alimony award to one party. If the parties agree that alimony is necessary, then they must determine and agree upon the amount and duration of the alimony, as well as the conditions under which alimony might cease. Some parties may need to include provisions dealing with the sale of real estate or other property, while some parties may need to specify how they shall file taxes and who should carry the tax burden for any of the assets or property being distributed.

An MSA is an enforceable contract, so the Court can intervene to enforce the MSA if one of the parties violates the terms of the MSA. The party who refuses to comply with the agreed upon terms of the MSA can be forced by the Court to pay the other party’s legal fees and costs in having to file to enforce the terms of the MSA.

The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices are well versed in the complexities of meeting the needs of individual clients in drafting Marital Settlement Agreements as part of the divorce proceeding. Please contact our office at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation to discuss your divorce matter and/or property dispute.