Divorce Settlement Agreement in Minnesota
A divorce settlement agreement, also sometimes called a marital settlement agreement, is a contract between divorcing spouses that resolves the significant legal issues arising from the dissolution of the marriage. Having a written agreement can help make the divorce process smoother and less contentious by spelling out responsibilities and rights upfront. This guide will explain what a divorce settlement agreement is, what it typically covers, key legal requirements in Minnesota, and tips for reaching an agreement outside of court.
What Does a Divorce Settlement Agreement Cover?
In Minnesota, a divorce settlement agreement will address:
- Child custody and parenting time: This outlines the physical and legal custody arrangements for any minor children, including a parenting schedule.
- Child support: The amount one spouse will pay to the other for the financial support of their children. Child support is determined based on Minnesota child support guidelines.
- Spousal maintenance: Also known as alimony, this is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after divorce. Not all divorces involve spousal maintenance.
- Division of assets and debts: All marital property (assets acquired and debts incurred during marriage) must be divided equitably between spouses. This includes things like the house, retirement accounts, vehicles, credit card debt, etc.
- Tax considerations: Certain provisions like spousal maintenance and child support have tax implications that need to be addressed.
- Health insurance and medical expenses: Providing health insurance for the children and allocating uncovered medical costs.
- Life insurance: Requiring one or both parents to carry life insurance for the benefit of the children.
- Property settlement: If one spouse will receive an unequal share of the marital assets, the agreement may require them to make a lump sum payment to achieve equity.
Beyond the main divorce-related issues, a settlement agreement also deals with the legal process of finalizing the divorce. This includes setting timelines, determining the grounds for divorce, and deciding which spouse will file the initial divorce petition.
Reaching a consensus on these complicated divorce matters requires compromise, thoughtful negotiations, and the guidance of experienced divorce attorneys. Settlement agreements protect both parties and provide the structure to finalize the divorce smoothly.
Why get a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
There are several benefits to reaching a divorce settlement agreement rather than litigating your divorce in court:
- Avoids uncertainty: Neither spouse can be sure how a judge would rule on critical divorce issues. A settlement allows you to control the outcome.
- Lowers costs: Litigation costs add up quickly. Settling saves substantially on legal fees.
- Speeds up the process: Courts are backlogged. A settlement means a faster divorce.
- Reduces conflict: Working together to compromise sets a tone of cooperation, especially important if you have kids.
- Provides closure: You can move forward knowing the issues are resolved.
Reaching a fair settlement both spouses can live with is typically better than rolling the dice in court. However, it is critical to negotiate knowledgeably and avoid agreeing to terms not in your best interest. Consulting an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney can help tremendously with this.
The Steps to a Divorce Settlement Agreement in Minnesota
Here is an overview of the typical steps to reaching a divorce settlement agreement in Minnesota:
- Each spouse hires their own divorce lawyer. This provides the legal experience to negotiate the agreement and protect your interests. Mediation with a neutral third party is another option.
- Financial documents are exchanged. This allows each side to value all marital assets and debts to be divided.
- Negotiations begin between the attorneys. Numerous drafts may go back and forth as each issue is discussed and compromises are made.
- A settlement agreement is drafted. Once the final terms are decided, the complete agreement is drafted, reviewed and signed by both spouses.
- Court approval. The settlement agreement is filed with the court along with the divorce petition. The judge reviews it, and if found to be fair and equitable, they will approve it.
- Divorce decree. The court will issue the final divorce decree that incorporates the approved settlement agreement. This legally finalizes the divorce.
Reaching a mutually agreeable settlement is always preferable to letting the court make decisions for you after an expensive and stressful divorce trial. Settlement agreements create an organized path to closure.
Do You Need an Attorney to Prepare Your Divorce Settlement Agreement?
While it may be possible for spouses to create a divorce settlement agreement together without legal representation, having an experienced family law attorney prepare your settlement agreement is highly recommended. An attorney can help ensure your interests and rights are protected under state divorce laws and that the agreement adheres to all legal requirements.
They can also provide objectivity during negotiations and guide you in determining fair terms for issues like:
- How marital property, assets and debts will be divided equitably
- Child custody arrangements and visitation schedules
- The amount and duration of child support and alimony (spousal maintenance)
- Who will cover health insurance and other expenses for children
- How retirement accounts and pensions will be divided
Even if you and your spouse intend to file an uncontested, no-fault divorce, having an attorney review your divorce settlement agreement is wise. They can identify any missing information, unconstitutional or unenforceable clauses, or other problems with the agreement before it’s submitted to the court. This helps minimize the risk of the agreement being rejected.
Can I Modify My Divorce Settlement Agreement Later On?
In most cases, the terms of your divorce settlement agreement become permanent once incorporated into your final divorce decree. However, it may be possible to modify certain provisions later by filing a motion with the court if both parties agree or if there’s been a substantial change in circumstances, such as:
- Increase or decrease in income that impacts child support or alimony obligations
- One parent relocating that affects the existing custody arrangement
- Changes in either parent’s health or ability to care for children
- A child’s preference when they are old enough
Significant changes like these may warrant modifying your divorce settlement to reflect new realities. But you’ll need a new court order approving changes to custody, support or property divisions outlined in your agreement.
Tips for Negotiating a Fair Divorce Settlement
Here are some tips to help you work towards a fair and equitable divorce settlement agreement in Minnesota:
- Be realistic about valuations of assets/property and budgets for spousal/child support. Use objective data.
- Avoid taking extreme positions on issues – compromise is key. Consider mediation if you are struggling to find middle ground.
- Prioritize the children. Make decisions like custody arrangements and child support based on their best interests.
- Research Guidelines and Minnesota divorce laws on alimony, child support, and property division to understand what fair agreements entail.
- Value homemaker contributions to the marriage when determining spousal maintenance and property settlement.
- Keep emotions controlled. Negotiations work best when jealousy, anger, spite or other feelings are kept in check.
- Allow sufficient time for a thorough review and revision of the agreement before signing. Don’t feel rushed.
With a combination of legal experience, financial knowledge, and emotional maturity, couples can craft divorce settlements that provide positive closure and set everyone up for stability post-divorce. Consult with an attorney and mediator to ensure you reach the best outcome.
How Martine Law Can Help With Your Divorce Settlement
The divorce attorneys at Martine Law have years of experience negotiating fair divorce settlements in Minnesota that achieve win-win resolutions for our clients. We take a holistic approach to securing your future, addressing the legal, emotional, and financial elements involved.
To discuss your situation in a free case evaluation, contact our Minneapolis divorce lawyers today.