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Marital Settlement Agreements

A marital settlement agreement (or “MSA”) is a binding contract between two parties in a divorce matter, which typically includes agreements as to how the parties will divide any marital assets and debts, and may also include provisions for alimony, timelines for the sale of real estate or other property, and various other provisions such as non-disparagement clauses. If parties are able to resolve all of the remaining issues raised in their divorce in an MSA, they may be able to avoid further court intervention; in fact, many parties who enter into an MSA never set foot in a courtroom.

Typically, the parties and/or their attorneys will first exchange discovery, including documents such as bank statements, retirement statements, and various documents and information regarding other assets and debts held by the parties. Once both parties and/or their attorneys are satisfied that they have an understanding of the total marital estate (including all assets and debts of the marriage), as well as the parties’ respective incomes and other circumstances (such as a spouse’s disability, the parties’ childcare situation, etc.), either party or one of their attorneys will typically reach out with an initial settlement offer. Negotiations are often exchanged back and forth between the parties or their attorneys, and eventually, if they feel that they have reached a reasonable resolution, the parties may agree on a global resolution of their divorce matter.

While MSAs do not have to be filed with the Court, many parties and attorneys choose to file these agreements with the Court for enforcement and safe-keeping purposes. If a party later fails to comply with a provision of the MSA (such as failing to refinance a property into their name in a timely fashion), the other party may file a petition with the Court to enforce the terms of the MSA. If that petition is successful, not only may the Court require the other party to comply with the MSA, but the Court may also order other relief, such as awarding counsel fees, or requiring the parties to sell property or take other appropriate action to rectify the issues caused by a party’s non-compliance.

If you have questions regarding your particular circumstances and would like to learn more about the divorce process and your options, contact Tanner Law Offices at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.