Putting Together a Marital Settlement Agreement in a New York Divorce
In the heat of a New York divorce, it may feel nearly impossible to agree on many things. However, a marital settlement agreement can help you and your soon-to-be-ex resolve issues in the most peaceful way possible.
In short, this agreement is a contract between the two of you in which you come to terms on issues that surround a divorce. Think of a marital settlement agreement as a valuable tool that allows you and your spouse to decide how you want to split your marital property, rather than having the judge decide for you.
It also means that you are agreeing to an uncontested divorce, which is less costly both emotionally and financially than a contentious divorce.
Types of property that can be included in a marital settlement agreement
With the exception of gifts by third parties, inheritances and personal injury awards, marital property is anything acquired during a marriage, that fall under New York’s domestic relations law DRL 236 B.
If you have neither marital property nor joint assets, accounts or debts, then an agreement probably isn’t necessary.
If you bought a home, have a mortgage, purchased vehicles, have joint checking and/or savings accounts, have credit card bills or any other debts, or assets and investments that are marital property, then a marital settlement agreement is a good choice.
It can save you the stress and worry of not knowing what to expect when you go to court because you have the security of a mutually agreed-upon contract.
Property that is typically part of a marital settlement agreement includes:
- Real property and Cooperative Apartments: For most people, this means a home, but it may also mean land and anything attached to that land, including any other type of structure on the land or even the minerals below it. Homes are often the most painful of all items included in a marital settlement agreement, as for most, it is more than just a “thing.” Especially when children are involved, spouses may agree that one parent will keep the house or apartment outright or will give up other assets in exchange.
- Personal property: This covers a wide range of items that were used “in common,” such as furniture and other household items including kitchen utensils, lawn and garden equipment and decorative objects; as well as cars, boats and even airplanes.
- Investments: Stocks, bonds and similar investments are often a major financial asset that should be considered when drawing up a marital settlement agreement.
- Joint bank accounts: Savings and checking accounts that are in both names are obvious marital property, but any account in which funds are comingled, even if it only bears the name of one spouse, may be marital property as well.
- Retirement accounts: Pensions, traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs and 401(k)s can be complex and generally require experienced legal guidance when determining how to include them in a marital settlement agreement.
- Debts and mortgages: Assets aren’t the only items that are included in a settlement; debts that were acquired during a marriage must also be reckoned with. These include credit card bills, car loans, personal loans, home equity loans and mortgages and other outstanding marital debts that need to be part of the agreement.
Reaching a fair and equitable NY marital settlement agreement requires solid legal guidance
No matter how amicable you and your spouse want your divorce to be, it is in your best interest to seek the help of an experienced New York City marital settlement agreement attorney to draft and review any agreement before you sign on the dotted line, just as you would with any contract.