What is a Divorce Agreement?

B. Miller

A divorce agreement or divorce settlement agreement is a binding legal document that is agreed to between two people who are divorcing. Each spouse will typically have his or her own attorney, and the attorneys will assist the divorcing couple in drawing up the agreement. On the most basic level, this type of settlement agreement specifies the division of assets, debts and liabilities, and any agreements regarding living arrangements and child custody.

Alimony, child support and division of property are addressed in a divorce agreement.
Alimony, child support and division of property are addressed in a divorce agreement.

A divorce agreement is frequently preceded by a separation agreement. The separation agreement is drawn up when a couple agrees to separate for a period of time to determine if divorce is the next step. Many of these specifics will be included in the separation agreement, which can lead to a divorce agreement being drawn up much more quickly if the couple decides to divorce.

A divorce can take months to finalize if the couple cannot reach a compromise.
A divorce can take months to finalize if the couple cannot reach a compromise.

In general, one spouse will first file for divorce, and the divorce agreement will begin to be created. Each spouse will meet with his or her attorney to discuss his or her desires for the divorce; this may include items such as the selling of a home and division of the profits, the division of retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, and possessions such as furniture and vehicles, as well as alimony and child support or spousal support. Child custody is always a large part of a divorce agreement. The agreement can include anything that the other party desires, but, of course, each must sign and agree to it.

Divorce settlement agreements are drafted by lawyers representing both spouses.
Divorce settlement agreements are drafted by lawyers representing both spouses.

This negotiation process can be quick, if both spouses are ready to compromise and agree, or it can take months or years. It is the job of each individual's lawyer to protect their interests and to offer advice. It is likely that multiple drafts of the divorce settlement agreement will be drawn up. These are just a few of the issues that will need to be considered when trying to reach a divorce settlement; a lawyer will be able to thoroughly explain the process.

A large part of a divorce agreement is often issues of child custody.
A large part of a divorce agreement is often issues of child custody.

Once both parties and their lawyers have agreed to the items specified in the divorce settlement agreement, the divorce agreement may be signed. It may be necessary to go to court and have certain items decided by a judge if the couple cannot agree. Laws then vary from state to state; the divorce may be effective immediately once the agreement is signed, or there may be a cooling-off period required, which can last for a few months. The agreement may not be changed once it is signed, but in states that allow a cooling-off period, it may be completely rescinded if the two parties change their minds.

Reaching a divorce agreement sometimes requires a neutral third party who is trained to diffuse emotional situations.
Reaching a divorce agreement sometimes requires a neutral third party who is trained to diffuse emotional situations.
When partners cannot communicate in order to come to an agreement, mediation may help.
When partners cannot communicate in order to come to an agreement, mediation may help.
The custodial rights of couples who have children are often laid out in a divorce agreement.
The custodial rights of couples who have children are often laid out in a divorce agreement.

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