Marital Settlement Agreements
In any Ohio divorce, one of the most basic questions that needs to be answered is: How will you and your spouse resolve your differences? For some couples, this means taking their divorce to trial. Spouses who are so completely at odds that they have no hope of working together may have no option other than to ask a judge to make decisions for them. While litigation is sometimes necessary, it tends to be messy – and expensive – and it often leaves both former spouses unsatisfied with the final result.
However, in most cases, divorcing couples are able to resolve their differences out of court. There are a number of options for doing so, and often spouses who believe that they are headed to court are ultimately able to settle their divorce through alternate means. The methods that spouses can use to establish the terms of their divorce out of court are: negotiation, mediation, and collaborative divorce.
So, let’s assume that you and your spouse are able to come to terms without resorting to litigation. What happens now?
Finalizing Your Divorce Through a Marital Settlement Agreement
When spouses settle on the terms of their divorce out of court, they need to put those terms in writing in what is known as a “marital settlement agreement.” A marital settlement agreement can cover all aspects of a couple’s divorce, including:
- Property division
- Allocation of debts
- Payment of alimony
- Payment of child support
- Custody and visitation
Generally speaking, divorcing spouses have a decent amount of leeway to craft settlement terms that work for their unique individual circumstances. By working with their respective attorneys and utilizing mediation or collaborative methods, spouses can often craft customized, thoughtful settlement agreements that meet both of their immediate and long-term needs. As a result, while there are companies that sell “form” marital settlement agreements online, using one of these forms will almost never be the best solution for formalizing the terms under which you will end your marriage.
In addition, while spouses have some leeway, they do not have free reign when settling on their terms. For example, even if both spouses are in agreement, Ohio law generally disfavors waiving child support. Ohio’s child support law focuses on protecting the best interests of the child, and if the child support guidelines call for payment of support, it can be difficult to argue that not paying that support would be in a child’s best interests. It may be possible for you and your spouse to agree to a waiver that the court will approve (see below), but this is something that will require careful consideration with the help of an experienced attorney.
Custody and visitation matters must be resolved in the children’s best interests as well, and even property division and alimony are subject to guiding principles under Ohio law. Part of your attorney’s role in representing you during your divorce settlement will be to help ensure that you are protecting your rights in a way that complies with the applicable legal requirements. That way, when it comes time to draw up your marital settlement agreement, your attorney can prepare an agreement that will gain court approval and allow for the efficient finalization of your divorce.
Getting Your Marital Settlement Agreement Approved By the Court
As mentioned above, marital settlement agreements in Ohio are subject to court approval. In most cases, obtaining this approval is a simple and straightforward process. The spouses’ attorneys will prepare a proposed divorce decree to submit to the court, and the court will schedule a hearing at which the agreement will be approved. The approved agreement then becomes a court order establishing the final terms of the couple’s divorce.
Marital Settlement Agreement vs. Divorce Decree
A marital settlement agreement is the proposed divorce decree, which may or not be approved by the judge. Once the marital settlement agreement becomes court-approved, it becomes the finalized divorce decree.
Contact an Attorney at Laubacher & Co. about Your Ohio Divorce
At Laubacher & Co., we provide knowledgeable, personal legal representation for divorcing spouses in Cleveland and throughout Cuyahoga County.