You'll Have to Live With Your Divorce Settlement Agreement For The Rest of Your Life, So You Want To Get It Right.
A final divorce settlement agreement is like the Constitution of your divorce. This agreement defines the parties' rights, responsibilities, and obligations after the final parting of the ways. The document establishes who gets what, the dollar amounts (if any) for spousal maintenance or child support, and how the spouses will divide and handle parenting duties, including where and with whom any children will reside. And more than a "handshake deal," a final divorce settlement agreement is the definitive, controlling, and legally enforceable contract that covers every aspect of the parties' now-defunct marriage and their new, divorced relationship moving forward.
With so much at stake, knowing what to ask for when negotiating the agreement is critical to every divorce proceeding. Since every marriage has unique dynamics, concerns, and circumstances - there is no one-size-fits-all list of things a divorcing spouse should ask for as part of the divorce settlement. That said, there are primary considerations that all settlement agreements must address.
In consultation with your divorce attorney, you will want to develop specific requests or demands regarding the following issues:
Division of Assets and Debts
As noted, "who gets what" is one of the most fundamental issues divorcing couples must resolve in their final divorce settlement agreement. To determine what you should ask for - and what is fair – you will need a complete picture of all the assets and debts you and your spouse have. Make a thorough list of all marital assets, including personal property, homes and real estate, vehicles, bank and credit card accounts, investments, retirement accounts, etc. Do the same with any outstanding debts and obligations, such as mortgages, credit card debt, and student loans.
In divorces where one spouse (or both) serves in the U.S. Military, additional stipulations apply to the final divorce decree. For a more detailed discussion of how civilian and military divorce differs, please read our article How Does Divorce Work In The Military?
Once you understand your financial landscape and decide what specific items, if any, are of particular importance to you, you can make a comprehensive proposal regarding the division of assets and debts.
Parenting Time and Responsibilities
In Colorado, divorcing parents must prepare a detailed parenting plan as part of any divorce settlement. Even if the parents agree on everything – parenting time, decision-making authority, where the child will live – an El Paso County judge will need to approve the proposed plan and will only do so if they determine that the agreed-upon arrangements are in the child's best interests.
When formulating what to ask for regarding your child, keep your child's best interests in mind as well and develop a plan and schedule that is realistic, workable, and fair to you, your child, and their other parent.
Child Support and Education Expenses
Colorado law establishes formulas for calculating child support obligations based on each parent's income/earning potential, the child's needs, and the parents' respective responsibilities as set forth in the parenting plan. Based on the law and your specific circumstances, you and your attorney will determine what amount of child support to request. Your divorce settlement agreement should also address who will pay for educational and related expenses, such as extracurricular activities and college tuition.
In some cases, the spouses' incomes are disproportionate, or one spouse gave up their income-earning career to raise their children, and the court can order one spouse to pay the other spousal maintenance. The dollar amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments that a judge will order, if any, is based on many factors, such as the length of the marriage, the earning potential of both parties, and their respective financial situations. Being reasonable and fair when negotiating this aspect of your divorce is essential to a quick resolution.
Health Insurance and Medical Expenses
Many couples and their dependents have health insurance through one spouse's employment-based coverage. Your final divorce settlement agreement should define who will be responsible for providing health insurance and how medical expenses will be divided. This includes routine medical expenses and any extraordinary medical costs, such as surgeries or specialized treatments.
Dispute Resolution and Modification
As time passes, disputes between the spouses may arise regarding their obligations and rights under the settlement agreement. Additionally, aspects of the agreement that seemed fair or appropriate at the time may no longer be so due to changed circumstances. For instance, changes in income or the need for one parent to relocate may require modifying a parenting agreement.
Your divorce settlement agreement should include how to resolve disputes or request modifications to avoid the disruption and expense of a court battle over such issues.
Call Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney Bryson Perkins Today
Getting what you want in your divorce settlement agreement requires an experienced Colorado Springs divorce attorney who understands Colorado law and how to make it work for you. If you are anticipating a divorce, please contact Perkins Law today to arrange for your free initial consultation.