7 Things You Should Know About The Marital Settlement Agreement

The marital settlement agreement (MSA) is a document that will set the terms of your divorce and what happens afterward. You aren't strictly required to make one with your soon-to-be ex, but if you have children, debts, and property, you could be at the mercy of the court on custody issues and you will undoubtedly have many other avoidable problems besides. Here are 7 things you need to know about MSAs and what should go into one.

1, Before drafting the MSA, you and your ex will want to come to agreement about the issues.

There are several ways you can go about coming to a inclusive agreement and these include:

  • Coming to mutual agreement on your own.
  • Having your lawyers work each thing out, point by point, or help you with the things you can't agree on.
  • Going to mediation sessions to iron things out.
  • Working most things out through the above means, and taking your chances with the judge on the rest.

2. The MSA can be enforced through the court just like court orders can.

The MSA will be approved and included with the final judgment that is issued by the judge, and it will used to settle disputes that can come up post-divorce.

3. If there is any confusion about a clause, it needs to be dealt with before making the final agreement.

Since the MSA will have the validity of a court order, if any issues come up later a court will hold you and your ex to what is said in the document. If you have any confusion about the arrangements set forth in it, you should ask questions and get things clarified.

With this in mind:

4. Each item in the agreement should be clearly spelled out and any likely scenarios should be taken into account with contingencies built in.

If the agreement is drafted poorly, one of you may end up getting short-shifted. Say you have a agreement that one of you would remain in the home until the children are grown. Then the house would be sold, and you would pay your ex a specific agreed upon amount, instead of a percentage of the profit.  Now the time has come to do this, but your house has become significantly devalued. A court will probably enforce the MSA anyway which would require you to make the full payment regardless.

5. To get a stipulation overturned later in the MSA one of two things should be true.

If it can be shown that your mate was guilty of fraud by concealing assets or debts, you may be able to get the MSA set aside. The other situation that could be reconsidered is when both of you agree that the terms set forth in the agreement are incorrect and you are in agreement about having them changed.

6. Marital debts should addressed in detail in the agreement to protect both parties.

If your ex has agreed to pay a debt, this should be carefully addressed in the MSA. You will want an indemnity clause put in so that if they don't pay the bill and you end up paying it to maintain a good credit rating, you can sue your ex for reimbursement.

7. If the agreement has a custody arrangement that the judge feels satisfies the standard of being in the children's best interests, it is likely to be approved.

You should work hard to come up with a child custody arrangement that you both can agree to. Even if you have to make minor concessions, it is still better to have an somewhat imperfect solution than to go into court empty-handed. Otherwise, the judge will decide and you might not be happy with the results.


If you have significant assets and debts, the divorce is very contentious, and you and your ex are battling over custody issues, then you should consult a family law attorney from a firm like Abom & Kutulakis LLP to protect your interests. They would have the expertise to point out things you may have missed or haven't considered and could give you advice on how to come to an agreement that will make your life easier following divorce.