Bergen County Marital Settlement Agreement Lawyer
Experienced Divorce Attorney in Hackensack, New Jersey
A critical component of your New Jersey divorce is a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), also known as a Property Settlement Agreement. The marital settlement agreement is essentially the legally binding document that explains what you and your spouse have agreed to as far as your divorce is concerned. It encompasses far more than simply “property.” In fact, your marital settlement agreement can address alimony or spousal support, child custody and parenting time, child support, as well as division of assets and debts. In order to arrive at a favorable marital settlement agreement that is prepared and executed properly, it is highly advisable to consult with an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney. Rosa Elfant Rickett is a skilled NJ divorce lawyer who has dedicated her career to helping her clients resolve family law matters. When you need a knowledgeable, responsive advocate to ensure that your interests are protected throughout the divorce process, she is the lawyer you want on your side. With offices in Hackensack, The Elfant Rickett Law Firm serves clients in Fort Lee, Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Garfield, Englewood, Paramus, and throughout Bergen County and New Jersey. If you have questions about marital settlement agreements or the divorce process, contact us anytime at 201.968.5700 to schedule a consultation.
Marital Settlement Agreements in New Jersey
In essence, a marital settlement agreement (MSA) is a comprehensive document containing the terms of your divorce. Once you make determinations about all of the issues in your divorce case, the resolutions will be listed in this legal document. As mentioned above, the MSA or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) addresses far more than property. The following are some of the items that may be included in your marital settlement agreement:
- Children: this includes arrangements for child custody, parenting time or visitation, and child support
- Property Distribution: this includes division of assets and debts, real property and intangible assets such as bank accounts, tax implications for both parties, health insurance, retirement, and more
- Spousal Support: if this applies in your case, the MSA contains the amount and duration of alimony, as well as any conditions that may affect the alimony arrangement
How do you Reach a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Not every divorce goes to trial in New Jersey. In fact, the majority of divorces are resolved through negotiation among the spouses’ respective attorneys, mediation, or through court-ordered early settlement programs. If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement about the terms of your divorce, it is still advisable to consult with a divorce attorney who can make sure the Marital Settlement Agreement is properly prepared and legally enforceable. If you choose to undergo the mediation process or you resolve your divorce during Early Settlement Panel proceedings, the next step will be to have your MSA prepared and subsequently entered by the court.
In many cases, divorcing couples disagree about the most fair terms of their divorce. In these cases, often called contested divorce, the parties can rely on their attorneys to meet and negotiate a settlement. Even if you begin the divorce process in a highly contentious situation, you may be able to reach an agreement through negotiation and then avoid the lengthy court process associated with trial. If you reach resolution through negotiation, both attorneys can review the Marital Settlement Agreement to ensure it reflects the appropriate terms.
Putting a Marital Settlement Agreement on the Record
Once you reach a settlement, your Marital Settlement Agreement must be entered with the court. It will then become part of your final divorce decree in the same way a judge’s decision would if your case went to trial. To complete the process of putting your MSA on the record, you will appear before a judge and the terms of your MSA will be read. You will need to affirm that you have voluntarily agreed to the terms. This effectively tells the court that you have reached an agreement that will become legally binding for both parties. You will no longer have the right to a trial. The final judgement of divorce will reflect the terms of your marital settlement agreement. Your divorce lawyer should thoroughly review this document because judges rarely do so.
How to Enforce a Marital Settlement Agreement
Your marital settlement agreement should be as detailed as possible to avoid potential disputes in the future. Even if things are relatively civil when the agreement is reached, a misconception about any of the terms can give rise to problems in the years to come. Similarly, anything omitted from the MSA will not be legally enforceable, so it is critical to ensure the document for comprehensiveness. After you sign the MSA, it becomes part of the final divorce decree and is as enforceable under NJ law as any other court order. If your former spouse violates one of the terms of the marital settlement agreement or fails to comply with one of its provisions, you can enforce the MSA through litigation.
Can you Change a Marital Settlement Agreement?
There are two ways to change a marital settlement agreement in New Jersey. First, if both parties agree to the change, you can have the initial agreement amended and submitted to the court. On the other hand, if one spouse wants to change one of the terms of MSA and the other does not agree, the spouse seeking the post-divorce modification must file a formal motion with the court to request the modification. Sometimes, a significant change in circumstances can justify a modification of alimony or child support. In cases involving parental relocation, the parent moving may request a change in child custody to bring their child with them to another state. Regardless of the situation, it is important to consult with an attorney who can explain all of your rights.
Consult a Hackensack Marital Settlement Lawyer for Additional Information
If you have questions about New Jersey marital settlement agreements or need assistance preparing one for your divorce, The Elfant Rickett Law Firm can help. We negotiate settlements for clients on a regular basis, making sure that your interests are protected now and for the years to come. Contact our offices in Hackensack today at 201.968.5700 to schedule a consultation or reach out online. We serve Bergen County, Morris County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Essex County, and throughout New Jersey.