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Marital Settlement Agreements

Author: richsmukler

During the course of your pro se divorce mediation you will be jointly preparing the Marriage Settlement Agreement with the guidance of your mediator that will become part of the package of documents to be presented to the Court. This document will spell out the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the spouses after the divorce.

These agreements usually cover
– property division
– child custody
– child plans
– debt division
– spousal support
– any other relevant issues related to the divorce.

Once an agreement has been reached, both parties will sign the settlement, and it will be forwarded to a judge who will incorporate the agreement into the final divorce decree. If a person changes his or her mind before signing the agreement, the negotiations will simply resume.

Since nothing has been agreed to, there is nothing to reverse or stop. Once the paperwork has been signed, there is a limited amount of time to rescind the settlement agreement before the judge finalizes it. Usually, an attorney will need to file a motion immediately, and present an argument to the court about why the agreement should be rescinded. Filing a motion does not mean that the judge will agree to throw out the settlement—divorce settlements are a contract, and judges assume that adults enter into contracts after thoroughly reviewing them and contemplating their options. However, it is easier to rescind a divorce agreement before it is entered into the divorce decree than it is to change it afterward.

If a spouse changes his or her mind after the divorce decree is entered, he or she will have limited options. For example, a person who is unhappy with the divorce decree cannot appeal a judge’s decision if he or she signed off on the paperwork. Instead, that person’s only option would be to convince the court to reopen the case and rescind the agreement.

In general, a court will only agree to do this if either circumstances have drastically changed, or if one person can prove that the other committed fraud during the divorce negotiations. For example, if two people agreed upon terms for spousal or child support, only to find later that one of them was hiding assets or income, the judge may agree to reopen the case in order to make the settlement more equitable.

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