Marital Settlement Agreements in Pennsylvania

The divorce process can be time consuming, cumbersome and expensive.  In addition to obtaining a divorce decree, which is the final order for divorce, the parties often have to resolve related matters such as custody of the children, child support payments, alimony, and/or equitably dividing the marital property.  The parties have two options available for resolving these matters.  They can either resolve their differences by written agreement or if they are unable to do so, they can have the court make the final determinations.


Court Intervention

Court intervention should always be a last resort.  State and local law establishes procedures for obtaining final court orders for custody, support, alimony or equitable distribution of the marital property.  For example, in Montgomery County, PA, there are mandatory steps for obtaining a court order for custody.  First, the parties are required to attend a mediation orientation session.  Next, the parties have to attend a custody conciliation before one of two conciliators.  Both of these steps are court mandated attempts to get the parties to reach an agreement.  If an agreement is still not reached, then the case is transferred to the Montgomery County court for a hearing and the judge will decide the custody arrangement.

There are also similar court mandated steps for support, alimony and equitable distribution

As you can imagine, the procedural steps take time, often many months or in some cases, well over a year. During this time, parties to a divorce often become even more agitated with each other, causing more stress on the situation.  Not to mention, your attorneys’ fees continue to accrue during each step of the way.

Unfortunately, certain situations almost always wind up going through the court system.  It is just inevitable and unavoidable.  The reasons could be concerns from a parent that the other spouse may be abusive towards the children or perhaps the parties disagree on the valuation of a particular asset that has substantial value. When these situations are present, then the court process should be utilized.  Whatever the situation, it is always important to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side.


Marital Settlement Agreement

The best option for most divorcing couples is the Marital Settlement Agreement.  The Marital Settlement Agreement is a written agreement between the parties that should always be drafted by experienced divorce lawyers.  A Marital Settlement Agreement can include provisions for custody, support, alimony and equitable distribution of marital property.  Agreements are often reached much sooner than any court process.  This saves the parties time and money.  Moreover, when the parties are able to set aside their differences and work towards an agreement, the parties are less emotional and they are often respectful towards one another.  This is very important especially when children are involved.

Good divorce lawyers will always consult with the client and explain expectations if the court were to decide these matters.  The client can then make informed decisions when negotiating an agreement with the other spouse based on what the court will most likely do.  Divorce lawyers with experience in these matters can use their expertise and knowledge to provide the client with options and guidance through the settlement process.