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What Is A Marital Settlement Agreement?

What is a Marriage Settlement Agreement?

People who are considering a divorce are often unaware that estranged spouses will often agree to many of the terms of a divorce without a protracted and emotional court battle. These agreements are called “Marriage Settlement Agreements” (“MSA”).

What is a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA)?

A MSA is a written contract negotiated and signed by divorcing spouses to resolve issues relating to their divorce and to spell out each party’s rights and duties. Generally, if a judge determines that the agreement is fair and reasonable, and that there was no coercion or undue influence, the terms will be included as part of the final divorce judgment.

When the agreement is made part of the final divorce judgment, it has the same force and effect as if the judge had tried the case and decided the terms. The cost will be far less than if the spouses fight over each and every term in lengthy litigation and, since they have agreed to the terms, there is a better chance that both will adhere to the MSA’s provisions.

What Should Be Included in a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Most settlement agreements cover the major categories of issues including: child support, custody and visitation; spousal support (alimony); division of property; and division of debts. Each party should understand each and every term mentioned. It is important to ask questions, and make sure that the written document reflects the actual, negotiated terms. Every provision of your Marriage Settlement Agreement is intended to be binding and enforceable.

In addition, MSAs include all details about division of real and personal property. “Real property” means real estate. “Personal property” includes all money, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, household goods and furnishings, valuables, personal clothing and belongings, automobiles, and any other assets that are not real estate. It also includes any business interests of either party.

Responsibility for and Payment of Debts

The MSA includes all current, installment, and other long-term debts and obligations as well as responsibility for taxes. Some terms of the agreement are carried out immediately, such as “The 2015 Ford goes to the Husband.” Others may describe extended obligations.  Some other provisions of the agreement may be ongoing, but subject to modification.

Speak with an experienced divorce attorney and contact The Law Offices of Atousa Saei by calling (310) 855-3386.