What Is a Divorce Settlement?

If you would like to finalize your divorce, you may wonder if a divorce settlement is right for you. Divorces can be resolved in a variety of ways. For some couples, reaching an agreement together and getting it approved by the court is the way to go.

Basics of Settling a Divorce 

A divorce settlement is a binding agreement between spouses planning to divorce. It describes how the spouses have resolved issues that arose during their divorce. The settlement is a written, signed document explaining the agreements that the spouses have reached.

It also includes the details of a divorce: when the couple married, when they separated, and when they filed for divorce. The agreement often details why the spouses are divorcing. It states that they intend to settle their disputes rather than have a judge decide.

Spouses do not have to decide every issue facing them. Sometimes, divorce settlements decide only a few issues and the rest of the issues are left for a judge to decide. The types of issues that spouses can resolve include:

  • Distribution of property, assets, and debt
  • The terms for paying alimony or spousal support
  • The terms for child custody and support
  • Reasons that the agreement could be modified in the future

Distribution of Property

One of the major areas where spouses might disagree during the divorce is property distribution. Property distribution is also one of the issues that can be decided in a divorce settlement. In North Carolina, the default rule for dividing up property is called equitable distribution. Various equitable factors play into the judge’s decision about who should receive which property.

Divorcing spouses may want to make their own decisions about property distribution. A divorce settlement can explain how the spouses have agreed to split up the property. Since the spouses agree, the division does not have to be equitable or even. Sometimes, one spouse agrees to take a smaller share of the assets in exchange for a concession elsewhere – such as paying less alimony or having greater custody rights.

Terms of Alimony or Child Custody/Support

Divorce settlements can also include spouses’ agreements about alimony, spousal support, child custody, or child support. These issues are commonly disputed during divorces. If a couple can agree about how to resolve one or all of these issues, they can sign a divorce settlement. This can prevent a lengthy court battle or an outcome that neither spouse wanted.

One way that some spouses reach divorce agreement over these contentious issues is by using a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps spouses discuss their disputes in an attempt to reach a consensus. Alternatively, some couples work with a parent coordinator to help them understand their options regarding custody disputes. A parent coordinator facilitates communication between spouses and helps them keep their children’s interests in the front of their minds. A mediator or a parent coordinator can help spouses who are motivated to reach a divorce settlement.

Finalizing a Divorce 

A divorce will not become final until a judge enters a final divorce order. If spouses have agreed on a divorce settlement in a written, signed document, they should submit the settlement to the judge for review. The judge may adopt the terms of the settlement as part of the final divorce order. If adopted in the order, the settlement’s terms become binding by law. The parties can raise any disputes stemming from the agreement in court.

You usually can’t appeal a divorce settlement – because presumably both spouses agreed on its terms. You can, however, seek a modification of the divorce terms. That is why spouses often include reasons why a settlement could be modified in the future in their settlement document. For example, a divorced spouse might be able to seek a modification if his or her income changes substantially, making payment of alimony unreasonable. Talk to your divorce lawyer to ensure that your divorce settlement includes modification language.

New Direction Family Law Is Here to Help

Are you are considering ending your marriage? If you are interested in reaching a divorce settlement or otherwise exploring your options for handling the divorce, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer questions. Our knowledgeable legal professionals will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.

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