The "Happy Ever After Divorce" Podcast. New episodes every Wednesday at 9:00am EST.
Happily Ever After Divorce®
Atlanta Divorce Law Group
What Should a Divorce Settlement Agreement Include
Defining a Divorce Settlement Agreement
The settlement agreement is the comprehensive form that is written allocating all issues relevant to the divorce, including custody asset division, debt division, attorney’s fees, and whether the wife wants to return to her maiden name.
Process of Creating a Divorce Settlement Agreement
The general process of creating a divorce settlement agreement begins with meeting with their attorney to determine what they would like to see in a final resolution of the case. From there, the entire agreement could be drafted to include those goals.
Independent Drafting Versus Legal Guidance
This is not a document someone could make on their own. There does need to be an attorney and notary present. This is a full and comprehensive settlement agreement that could not be done without an attorney, because there are so many additional details that a lot of people do not think about. When the agreement is ready to be executed, it does have to be notarized.
Yes, divorce settlement agreements are used in contested divorces.
Yes, they are used in uncontested divorces. A settlement agreement could be drafted at any time in either type of case.
Commonly Written Items
Common items written into this document include custody, parenting time, child support, division of assets, division of debts, real estate, any businesses between the parties, and any financial accounts.
If the parties could not agree on an element of the divorce settlement agreement, there are several options. They could have their attorneys talk directly with each other to see if they could come up with a middle ground compromise. They could submit to mediation and a mediator could help them come up with the middle ground compromise. They could submit to arbitration, which is very similar to mediation except an arbitrator could render a binding decision, or they could bring the issue to a judge and let the judge make the final decision.
Information Needed to Complete a Divorce Settlement Agreement
The evidence or information generally needed to draft or complete a divorce settlement agreement depends on what issues are at play and how complex the case is. Attorneys would need background on children, how many are involved, their ages, and what parenting time schedule the parents think would be best for them. They would need financial and income information for both parties as well as an entire asset spreadsheet and evaluation of any real property and businesses.
In most instances, the court would automatically approve the divorce settlement agreement. They would want to have an attorney draft it to make sure the judge accepts and signs off on the divorce settlement agreement.
Examples of instances in which the court would not immediately approve of the divorce settlement agreement would include if specific findings of fact are missing. Those requirements are much more extensive when there are children involved. There are additional findings that have to be included as well as additional paperwork, such as a parenting plan, child support worksheet, and child supported addendum. If any of these pieces are missing, the court would not accept the agreement.
Is a Divorce Settlement Agreement Required before a Divorce can Occur in Atlanta?
A divorce settlement agreement is not required for a divorce to occur in Atlanta, but some form of document outlining custody, child support, division of assets, and debts is required. The most common way to do this is a settlement agreement. All of these issues could also be left for a judge to determine in which case it would just be deemed a final divorce order.
Divorce Agreements Versus Separation Agreements
No, a divorce agreement is not the same as a separation agreement. A separation agreement would be put in place when a couple decides to separate and live apart, but not severe the marital relationship.
A couple does not have to have a separation agreement. That is not required. They could have a divorce agreement.
Changing a Divorce Agreement
There are limited instances when a divorce settlement agreement could be changed in the future. In general, such modifications would be limited to issues related to children, such as custody and child support.
The court does not have to become involved in this. If the parties come to a new agreement on their own, they would just need to draft a new agreement reflecting the updates. Having an attorney to assist them in doing this is helpful, so that when it is submitted to the judge it is accepted.
Statute of Limitations
No, there is not a statute of limitations on when the settlement agreement could be changed. There is not a deadline. There are rules in place on how often a settlement agreement could be changed and there are requirements on what could be changed and how.
The document is primarily used by divorcing individuals with children and without children. A settlement agreement would be used in both instances, but a settlement agreement with children would be longer and more detailed.
Yes, alternative or additional documents are needed when drafting a divorce settlement agreement when children are involved. When children are involved, there are additional findings of facts that must be included in the settlement agreement. They also have to submit a parenting plan, a child support worksheet, and a child support addendum. Most counties in Georgia also require the parents to complete a co-parenting webinar and file the certificate of completion of that class.
Child custody is written into a divorce settlement agreement in several different ways. The most common way is to incorporate the parenting plan as an exhibit into the settlement agreement.
Disobeying an Agreement
If a divorce settlement agreement is not followed, the other parent or spouse would have the opportunity and right to file a contempt action, which brings to the court’s attention of the fact that the agreement is not being followed and in what manner it is being broken.
If the two parties agree to change the element of the agreement, but do not legally change the document, it could affect the agreement. Any such verbal or written agreement solely between the parties, but not adopted by the court is not an official modification. If there are issues later on, the court would stick to what has been filed with the court, which would be that original agreement. This could become a major problem. It is always in their best interest to seek the advice of counsel to make sure they are following the proper procedure for modifying their agreement.
Problems or difficulties could arise with a divorce settlement agreement, so they want to make sure that they have counsel and advice so that all details and requirements are being included. Sometimes they do not think of all these details, such as a deadline on when to refinance a house. If there is no deadline and the other party refuses to refinance, there is not a way to hold them to that if they were never told they had to complete it by a certain time. This is just an example of how detailed these things have to be. There could be serious repercussions for not making sure everything is included.
The Role of an Attorney
An experienced divorce attorney could prevent or bring awareness to these issues, because they know and deal with these details on a daily basis. They know and are aware of the details that are often overlooked. They would make sure that all of those details are included and would ask them a multitude of questions to make sure all bases are being covered.
Someone looking to prepare a divorce settlement agreement should contact an experienced divorce attorney, because they want to make sure that they are including everything that is required for a court to accept the settlement agreement, such as findings of facts. If there are children involved, they want to include additional documents such as the parenting plan, child support worksheet, and addendum. They also want to make sure that they are not overlooking any assets. Any assets that are jointly titled would need to be split up and divided. They need an attorney’s assistance, for example, in business valuations, account valuations, and real estate valuations, all of which has to be included in an agreement.
The best time to contact an experienced divorce lawyer is sooner rather than later. They could help even if the parties are in an agreement. They make sure everything that must be included is included, so that they do not run the risk of the judge rejecting their agreement.