The overwhelming majority of New Jersey divorce cases end up settling on or before the trial date assigned by the Court. There is no set date for settlement. Some couples work out their issues very early on (before they even file divorce papers). Other couples spend a year (or more in some counties) battling in court before they settle their issues. A tiny minority of couples actually begin a trial of their cases, and a smaller minority try their cases to conclusion – at which time the Judge decides the unresolved issues in the case.
An Interspousal Child Custody, Child Support, and Marital Settlement Agreement, commonly referred to as an MSA or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) is a written agreement that covers all of the issues that should be dealt with in a divorce. The language of the Agreement is crucial as the words used define the parties’ rights moving forward after the divorce. The New Jersey courts allow the parties to a divorce to fashion their own written settlement agreement, and if both parties sign it, the court will literally attach it to the Judgment of Divorce so that the agreement becomes part of the Judgment of Divorce. In future blog posts I will discuss the individual sections of a standard MSA in detail.
The Court’s Involvement When There Are No Children
If there are no children, the courts will not do an in-depth review of the details of the agreement. However, if there is a waiver of alimony the court will question whether the person waiving alimony understands that the waiver is final, and whether the person waiving can maintain a lifestyle comparable to the marital lifestyle post-divorce without alimony. The court’s focus will be on getting testimony from the parties that
- Both parties think that the agreement is fair and reasonable.
- Both parties feel that the Marital Settlement Agreement was voluntarily executed by both parties, without threats or any form of coercion being exerted on either party.
- Both parties understand, speak and write English.
- Neither party is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication which would impair their ability to understand the proceedings in court.
- Both parties agree to be bound by the terms of the Marital Settlement Agreement.
- Both parties understand that by entering into the Marital Settlement Agreement that they are waiving their right to a trial where they could have given testimony and the Judge would have ruled on the issues and made a final determination on the issues.
- Both parties are satisfied with the services of their attorneys.
The Court’s Involvement When There Are Children Of The Marriage
If there are children born of the marriage the court will ask if the Child Support guidelines worksheet is attached, and whether the child support is based on the child support guidelines. If the child support agreed upon is not based on the child support worksheet guidelines then a valid reason has to be given to the court for deviating from the guidelines. The court will also inquire into how child support will be paid, i.e., will it be paid through the county probation department or it will be paid directly from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent.
If you would like to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer about what needs to be placed in a Marital Settlement Agreement do not hesitate to call my office at 201-731-3086, or use the contact form to e-mail me. I have been helping clients in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, and Essex counties, settle their cases for over 20 years. Your telephone or e-mail consultation is free.