by Ed Sherman, Divorce Expert Attorney
A divorce might be the most important financial transaction of your life, and the settlement agreement is virtually your entire divorce, so it is worthy of serious consideration. A settlement agreement is the best thing you can do in most divorce cases, but it takes time to work out, so be careful, take your time, and do it right.
Here’s why you should work hard to get a well-drafted settlement agreement if agreement with your spouse is even remotely possible:
With an agreement, you probably won’t have to go to court. With one, you almost certainly will.
Essentially, your settlement agreement becomes your Judgment and you will be ordered to comply with its terms. This means you get to decide everything ahead of time and have total control over the Judgment. Without a settlement agreement the judge decides everything.
With a settlement agreement you can get far more depth, detail, flexibility and protection.
If your community property is worth more than $5,000, a settlement agreement is the only way you can arrange an unequal division, if this is what each spouse agrees is fair.
Once you sign, your divorce is mostly finished except for red tape and paperwork.
Perhaps most important, divorces that are settled by good agreements usually work out better afterward—spouses are more likely to comply with terms, have better post-divorce relationships, better co-parenting, faster healing, and it just feels better.
These advantages are so important that you should work long and hard, if necessary, to get an agreement. In Chapter 6 of my book How to Do Your Own Divorce in California I explain how to create your own settlement agreement, when to get help doing it, and how to file it.
A good agreement is one that has been thoroughly discussed, worked out in great detail, and is very carefully drafted. All facts have been disclosed and you have given each other open access to every document and record. You want above all to avoid a situation where either spouse has second thoughts in the months after the agreement is signed. This means you want more than just signatures on the contract—you want a true meeting of the minds on all points, and that means an agreement that has been thoroughly thought out and negotiated in depth and detail by each of the spouses, personally. You can easily and inexpensively draft your own agreement using Nolo’s DealMaker Settlement Agreement Software.
Copyright 2007 Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman is a family law attorney, divorce expert, and founder of Nolo Press. He started the self-help law movement in 1971 when he published the first edition of How to Do Your Own Divorce, and founded the paralegal industry in 1973. With more than a million books sold, Ed has saved the public billions of dollars in legal fees while making divorce go more smoothly and easily for millions of readers. You can order his books from www.nolotech.com or by calling (800) 464-5502.
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