Today I’m going to share with you the Marital Settlement Agreement vs Divorce Decree.
Divorce is more than a legal termination of any marriage, its repercussions run deeper into the emotional and financial being of both parties forever. In some cases, one
spouse may even be financially dependent on the other and how the divorce agreement pans out may determine the stability for the rest of their lives. There are a few ways that you can go about your divorce formalities and this is where the “Marital settlement agreement vs Divorce decree” conversation comes in.
Not everyone has the time, energy or resources to go through the hassle of divorce court hearings and that is why the concept of divorce through marital settlement agreement followed by approval of a judge has been legalized in many states in The United States Of America.
Questions like “What is a marital settlement agreement?”, “What is a divorce decree?”, “What is the difference between a marital settlement agreement and divorce agreement or divorce decree” have been explored in detail below:
Marital Settlement Agreement vs Divorce Decree: Details Comparison
What Is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement is a legal binding document that lists all settled upon agreements between the divorcing parties. All provisions for the division of assets are listed in this settlement agreement along with the details of the custody arrangements like visiting hours, child support and even alimony if applicable, which has been explored below.
For a marital settlement agreement, the involvement of both parties is mandatory.
Before we move on to discussing the difference between a marital settlement agreement and divorce agreement or divorce decree, here is a list of issues in a settlement, which may include but is not limited to the following:
- Child custody: A divorce gets messier when there are kids involved. Custody, meaning the legal guardianship or protective care of the child and visitation hours are negotiated and incorporated in the settlement agreement.
- Child support: Closely following child custody decisions is child support which can be defined as an ongoing payment made periodically for the benefit and development of the child of divorce by either parent following the termination of a marriage, the obligor is generally the non-custodial parent. This generally comes into the picture if one spouse, seeking custody of the child, was formerly financially dependent on their partner or is not financially stable to take care of the child. This amount is calculated using a state-specific child support guideline or formula to determine the reasonable monetary resources needed by the child.
- Alimony: Best described as spousal maintenance again aiming at helping at formerly financially dependent spouses, alimony is a decided amount of money provided by one spouse to the other to help them stay afloat even after the separation.
- Division of marital property and states: Depending on your state of residence, you will either be eligible for ‘equitable’ distribution, which includes the distribution of marital assets not equally but on the basis of an array of factors like earning potential, financial needs, health status, cause of divorce, etc to ensure a “fair” division or community division which states both parties to be equal owners of the assets or properties that are bought or inherited after marriage and thus divide the same equally between the two.
It is advisable for each party to hire an attorney and go through all the clauses of the marital settlement agreement to ensure that there is no discrepancy or vague language as it can lead to ensure that there are no errors or discrepancies from either side of the case.
There is no difference between a marital settlement agreement and divorce agreement when it comes to hiring attorneys. Always have a lawyer go through the particulars of any legal document that you are going to be signing.
Another option of hiring a mediator to single-handedly understand both parties and come up with an amicable agreement is available but many believe that a single attorney may fail to understand and fairly stand for the needs of two opposing parties.
Furthermore, vague language in the contract should be strictly corrected as it may lead to problems in the future that can lead to further legal battles.
While answering what is a marital settlement arrangement, it is extremely important to note that the mere act of signing a divorce settlement does not split a couple in the eyes of the state. This is where the next question which is “What is a divorce decree?” comes into the picture.
The agreement needs to be presented and approved by a judge who then issues a divorcee decree which finally legally separates the couple. This is the major difference between a marital settlement agreement and divorce agreement.
Both spouses should start adhering to the agreement and after signing it and unless and until there is a huge bias or discontent from any party, getting a marriage settlement approved isn’t hard at all.
Mind you, the waiting period for the same may vary with respect to court backlogs, availability of judges and various legal circumstances, so patience is key as the waiting period may even extend to more than three months in certain cases.
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What Is a Divorce Decree?
Now that we’ve understood in detail what is a marital settlement agreement, let’s move on to exactly answering what is a divorce decree. It is crucial to understand that even though both, though closely knit, are two different documents.
A divorce decree can be considered as the next step to a marital settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement, like discussed above contains all the particulars of the arrangement between both spouses that needed to be followed post divorce which are negotiated and agreed upon by both the parties.
This is the document that is finalized and sent to the court for approval along with related and relevant paperwork like financial affidavits, marriage certificate, etc. The major difference between a marital settlement agreement and divorce agreement is that only after the divorce decree is issued is the couple actually divorced.
Once this marriage settlement is reviewed and approved by a judge, only then is a divorce decree is entered which officially legalizes the requested divorcee. It is extremely crucial to keep in mind that it is only after obtaining a divorce decree that a couple is officially and legally separated. In many cases the marital settlement agreement is merged with the final divorce decree and handed out but it may as well be handed out as a separate document.
A divorce decree is essential to people pursuing divorce through marital arrangement settlements but it is not the only way to obtain a divorce decree. Couples can directly take their split to court and obtain a decree if the court approves it after trial. Either way, the date when the parties sign the divorce decree is considered as the official date of the termination of any marriage.
A divorce decree contains the post-split arrangement details (like the division of property, custody, alimony, etc.) as well, very similar to the details mentioned in a traditional marital settlement agreement which has been explained above.
What Is a Divorce Certificate?
Now that we have answered “what is a marital settlement agreement?” and “what is a divorce decree?”, the next in order is exploring divorce certificates as they are often confused with both of these documents.
It is important to note that a divorce certificate, in spite of being a legal document, is not issued by the court. Instead, it is prepared by the state’s health department or bureau of vital statistics, which is also often the place where you can get your birth certificate.
Unlike both marriage settlement agreements and divorce decrees, a divorce certificate is a simple legal document that states that the two individuals in question are legally divorced. The document contains the names of the formerly married pair along with the date and place of the divorce.
It should be kept in mind that not all states issue divorce certificates but in the states where they are issued, they can be used for getting a name change, travel visa or passport. It is also used to show the court that you are single during inheritance battles post the split. It is majorly used as proof of divorce without revealing any details.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Some frequently asked questions about marital settlement agreements vs divorcee decree have been answered below:
1. Do I Need an Attorney to Prepare the Divorce Agreement?
Yes. It is advisable that both parties hire separate attorneys to draft and settle an amicable marital settlement agreement that can be sent for approval to court.
2. Can We Modify a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Personal changes aside, if one wants to legally change a marital settlement agreement, the judgment is completely in the hand of the judge, irrespective of the approval of both parties,
3. What Is the Difference Between a Marital Settlement Agreement and Divorce Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement contains the agreed upon terms and conditions of the split which is finalized and sent to court to ask for approval by a judge.
If passed, a divorcee decree is issued which legally separates the two parties from marriage in the eyes of law and also contains the details of the agreements that need to be followed post divorce.
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Ending the Article:
Divorce is one of the hardest things one may have to go through. It mentally, physically and economically drains both parties and brings a new phase of life with it.
Not wanting to fight for divorce in court is reasonable and thus one can definitely go for a marital settlement agreement and get it approved in court to save time, energy and resources.
Either way, one should be well-versed with the entire process to ensure that one is not taken advantage of.