Common Questions about Marital Settlement Agreements in New Jersey
A Marital Settlement Agreement is a legally binding document that specifies the conditions former spouses will relate to each other once the divorce is final.
When it comes to divorce in New Jersey, there are a multitude of details involved in the dissolution of the legal matrimony that must be taken into consideration. From the separation of assets to spousal support to child custody, child support, and parenting time agreements, a divorce is an involved process. As the details of divorce are hashed out by the separating couple and their family law attorneys, the specific agreements and terms of the divorce are recorded in a very important document, the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). Read on to learn more about Marital Settlement Agreements in New Jersey and how they are used.
What is a Marital Settlement Agreement in New Jersey?
A Marital Settlement Agreement, also called a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), is a legal document that encompasses a compilation of agreements and terms of the divorce. It is, essentially, the document that contains the specifics of the Superior Court’s divorce decree, and in most cases, once it is signed and entered into the court system, it is as enforceable as any other court-ordered document.
An MSA contains a detailed agreement between divorcing spouses involving such elements of the divorce as a complete breakdown of marital assets, financial information, shared accounts, investments to be separated in the divorce, and how; the terms of any existing spousal support or alimony agreement; child custody arrangements and a detailed parenting time agreement breaking down responsibilities and parenting schedules, and other court-enforceable divorce agreements between spouses.
Can I Write My Own Marital Settlement Agreement in NJ?
A divorcing couple may legally write their own MSA without the support of a family law attorney or divorce mediator. While it is within the bounds of legality in New Jersey for a couple to do so (there are downloadable templates available), it is highly advisable that the couple each hire their own attorney to represent them and help facilitate the process, as well as draw up the proper documents.
Upon receiving the final divorce decree from the Superior Court, the Marital Settlement Agreement becomes an incorporated element that is almost always as court-enforceable as the terms of the legal dissolution. As such, it is essential that the MSA contain as much detail as possible to be court-enforceable. In many cases, a couple who is amicable overlooks elements of future possible conflict that require a contract or court-backed agreement to be resolved. A family law attorney is well versed in the required specificity of an MSA and will ensure that all possible present and future divorce terms are addressed in the legally binding document.
Are a Marital Settlement Agreement and a Separation Agreement the Same?
It is important to note that a Marital Settlement Agreement and a Separation Agreement are not the same things, and they are not equally enforceable by the courts. Often when a couple decides to separate, they enter into a Separation Agreement to provide legal assurance that shared accounts will not be used during the separation, and marital assets will not be, for example, sold. However, a Separation Agreement is not a document that is enforceable or even entertained by the Superior Court; instead, it is subject only to contract law.
Can You Enforce a Marital Settlement Agreement in New Jersey Court?
A Marital Settlement Agreement is a standard element of a divorce that the separating couple draws up (often and advisably with the support of a family law attorney or mediator) to lay out all details of the divorce.
Because a Marital Settlement Agreement contains specific terms of the divorce from a division of assets to spousal support to custody and parenting time agreements; and the MSA is an incorporated element of the divorce decree issued by the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part, it is court-enforceable.
Can a NJ Marital Settlement Agreement be Changed?
There are certain elements of a Marital Settlement Agreement that can be amended if a motion for modification is filed with the Superior Court. While elements like spousal support terms and terms of the parenting time agreement can be modified, other aspects such as the separation of assets generally cannot be modified after the original divorce decree is obtained. Additionally, there are elements of the MSA that the Court has the right at any time to augment: primarily, pieces of the MSA that deal with custody and parenting time – elements that pertain directly to the wellbeing of involved children – are within the jurisdiction of the Court to amend at any reasonable time.
How Can a Lawyer Help with Devising a Marital Settlement Agreement?
As noted above, it is not legally required that a Marital Settlement Agreement be drawn up by a family law attorney. However, because of the extent and import of the contents of the MSA, it is essential that a divorce attorney facilitate the creation of this document with the separating couple. In the issuance of a divorce decree, a judge rarely looks at the terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement; instead, they simply ensure that both parties have voluntarily entered into the agreement and it is therefore legally binding. As such, it is up to the couple – and their experienced attorneys – to ensure that the terms of the MSA are specific and comprehensive enough to be court-enforceable as is.
Divorce Attorney Edward Cooper can Assist You with Drafting Your Marital Settlement Agreement in Union, New Jersey
Your divorce is a landmark event in your life, and in order for you to move forward with ease and calm, it is essential that you know the enforcement of the terms of your divorce can be attained at any point in the future if needed. For this reason, it’s imperative that you have a skilled family law attorney on your side when negotiating the terms of divorce with your ex and drawing up the MSA. At The Law Firm of Edward. S Cooper, ESQ we exist to be this solid source of support in the legal transition from one chapter to the next, and we support clients across Cranford, Roselle Park, Jamesburg, Elizabeth, Union Township, and places in and around Middlesex and Union County, NJ in creating MSAs that are hole-proof and enforceable.
Contact us at (908) 481-4625 for an initial consultation to learn how we can help you in this important transition.