The Importance Of A Well-Drafted Marital Settlement Agreement

The anatomy of a divorce has several stages. Initially, parties file pleadings that spell out what it is that each party wants or is seeking. Then there is the discovery process where the parties seek out information from the other party regarding such things as finances or anything pertinent to the divorce proceedings. After discovery, one of two things can happen. Either the parties can settle whereby they enter an agreement/contract about how property and timesharing with the children will be allocated or they can opt to go to trial. The agreement/contract dividing rights, responsibilities and property is termed a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

MSAs vary widely in terms of length and scope. A well-drafted MSA should at a minimum address division of property, assets, liabilities, timesharing/custody of the child(ren) (if there are any), a timesharing schedule, alimony and tax consequences. In Florida, MSAs and the accompanying parenting plans must include certain provisions such as a primary parent for purposes of determining a school district designation for the minor child(ren). A well-drafted MSA should be specific enough so that if one party fails to comply, a court can find the other party in contempt or enforce the provisions of the MSA.

MSAs can be very lengthy, or they can be incredibly short. If an MSA does not address key issues, the parties will likely find themselves in court at a later date or without a remedy to enforce something that was not addressed in the original MSA. There are rare instances of fraud and misrepresentation when an MSA can be set aside. However, attempting to set aside an MSA can be costly, so it’s important to get it right the first time. Be sure to seek out a marital and family law attorney who is familiar with the important points that must be addressed. Once you have your MSA, be sure to keep a hard copy and to upload it onto your computer. In particular, if there are provisions for alimony or a parenting plan and if the divorce was contentious, you will most likely be referencing this document quite frequently.

My firm, South Florida Legal Rescue, regularly handles Marital Settlement Agreements. I am attorney Jennifer H. Milne, and the approach I take is to sit down with the client(s) and carefully listen to what they want or need. From there, a tailored MSA is drafted and revisions are made where necessary. I maintain regular communication with the client to ensure that the client is apprised of all modifications. Call today at 561-303-0400 to schedule an appointment.