Marital Settlement

Marital Settlement Agreement vs. Divorce Decree: The Differences

COVID-19 may have slowed the U.S. divorce rate, but divorce is still a fact of life for many couples. Couples have to figure out the legal paperwork required to untie the knot.

This quick guide to the marital settlement agreement vs. divorce decree explains what divorcing couples need to know about these two important legal documents people commonly confuse.

Marital Settlement Agreement vs. Divorce Decree: Which Is Which?

Divorce often involves a lot of paperwork. The marital settlement agreement and the divorce decree are the two most important divorce documents. One document defines the terms of the divorce. The other finalizes the divorce.

What Is a Marital Settlement Agreement?

A marital settlement agreement outlines all of the agreed-upon details of a divorce settlement. A couple enters into a marital settlement agreement once both parties agree to the terms. The document gets filed with the court as part of the divorce settlement.

Lawyers and meditators may be necessary for couples who cannot agree on specific terms of the divorce. If an agreement still cannot be reached, a judge will rule on any unresolved issues before finalizing the divorce.

The marital settlement agreement should be as descriptive as possible. A couple does not want to land back in court because details get misinterpreted at some point. The marital agreement may include:

  • How assets, property, and debt will be divided
  • Alimony payment terms
  • Child support terms
  • Child custody arrangements

Once both parties agree upon all details of the marital settlement agreement, the agreement becomes part of the final divorce decree.

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A marital settlement agreement becomes part of the final divorce decree. A divorce decree is a court-issued document that finalizes a divorce. Once a couple receives a divorce decree, both parties can legally remarry.

A marital settlement agreement is not required to request a divorce decree. Still, in cases without a settlement agreement, a judge must rule on any settlement details to be entered into the final divorce decree.

It is unusual for a judge to require any changes to an existing martial settlement agreement before issuing a divorce decree. However, if they feel the agreement does not serve the best interest of any children involved in the divorce, they may require a change.

Consult With an Attorney

Knowing a marital settlement agreement vs. divorce decree can be helpful as a couple moves through divorce proceedings. However, divorces are challenging enough without having to figure out the paperwork. It is best if each party hires their own lawyer to complete or approve the marital settlement agreement and other necessary documents.

Even if both parties agree on all terms of a divorce, attorneys can ensure all necessary documents are completed and filed correctly. This can prevent proceedings from being delayed by a paperwork error. They can also ensure the divorce agreement is in the best interest of their client.

If you are facing a divorce, browse our legal section for more tips on the divorce process.

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