What To Include in a Marital Settlement Agreement

The MSA: There is No More Important Document in Your Divorce Case

A marital settlement agreement (MSA) is the comprehensive written document that contains the entire agreement between your spouse and you regarding all of the issues in your New Jersey divorce.

It is imperative that the language and terms of your MSA be all-encompassing as well as crystal clear, because the MSA will be submitted to the New Jersey Family Court and will be become part of the Judgment of Divorce. Therefore, each party’s agreements in the MSA are just as enforceable as the decisions of the Court in a contested case after a trial.

The Subjects That Must Be Addressed

While every divorce is different and the necessary provisions in a marital settlement agreement therefore vary, at a minimum the following subjects should be thoroughly addressed in the MSA, if they are applicable to your case:

  • Children – legal custody, physical custody, parenting time (regular, holidays/special days and vacations), basic child support, payment for the cost of additional child-related expenses such as extracurricular activities, childcare and camp, private school and college, health insurance and health care expenses, life insurance to secure each party’s financial obligation to provide financial support for the children, allocation of income tax benefits relating to the children.
  • Spousal Support – alimony amount, duration and tax treatment, health insurance and health care expenses for each party, life insurance to secure the payor’s obligation to pay alimony.
  • Marital Assets and Debts – equitable distribution of each marital asset and debt.
  • Income Tax Returns – responsibility for future assessments and allocation of future refunds with respect to prior joint income tax returns, confirmation of filing status for future income tax returns.
  • Legal Advice – acknowledgment of attorney representation and opportunity to discuss MSA with attorney, payment of counsel fees and costs.
  • Miscellaneous – waiver of claims against estate, releases of all other claims other than those explicitly addressed in the MSA, representation of complete disclosure, waiver of any additional discovery, modifications and non-waiver of defaults, consequences of defaults, voluntary nature of each party’s agreements, wavier of right to trial.

The Importance of Good Legal Representation

The preceding list is by no means exhaustive, and its length highlights why it so important for you to have an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with everything which should be addressed in your MSA. That attorney should also be able to draft a proposed Agreement whose language is clearly stated and well-organized, so that you can easily find each subject when you need to refer to it in the future.

At Lyons & Associates, P.C., family law is all we do, and divorce cases represent the majority of our practice. If you’re in need of advice regarding marital settlement agreements, please do not hesitate to call our law offices at (908) 575-9777 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.