Marital Settlement Agreements (“MSA”) are sometimes drafted as a pre-cursor to filing a divorce, where the parties sit down and work out the terms of their divorce ahead of time. In situations like this, where you have a valid, signed MSA, one party can present it to the Judge as part of an uncontested divorce packet. In such case, the divorce process becomes streamlined and cost-effective for both parties involved. If you have a signed MSA and file an uncontested divorce complaint that has been served on the other party properly, your divorce can be handled relatively quickly.
In other situations, the parties may have begun divorce proceeding, have gone through mediation and reached a settlement prior to trial. The terms of their agreement are then reduced to an MSA and entered as part of the divorce judgement. While this may take more time, it means that you are the arbiter of your own fate. You decided what was important to you and your agreement reflects that. In contrast to a divorce trial (which is where a judge decides everything and can be a time-consuming and costly process), an MSA that is crafted by the parties offers a compromise situation that is finely tuned to individual needs.
A marital settlement agreement is a contract, and it is enforceable as such. New Jersey has a strong public policy in enforcing agreements, and they can’t be set aside based on a whim. Therefore, it is critically important to have strong legal counsel prepare your MSA, with an eye towards your current financial situation and long-term prospects. This is especially important if you have children, or you will need spousal support.
If you are considering divorce, and you have been presented with an MSA to sign, be sure to consult an attorney before waiving any of your rights. The Law Offices of Sadaf Trimarchi can assist you in reviewing an MSA or drafting one for you that is tailored to meet your needs. I am happy to offer flat fees for drafting an MSA for use in an uncontested divorce proceeding.