Can we make a binding settlement agreement without lawyers?
If you and your spouse want to make a binding settlement agreement without getting any divorce lawyers involved on either side, you can do so. However, it’s almost always better to hire a divorce lawyer to serve as your representation and go over any proposed settlement agreements for you.
It’s much easier to get a settlement agreement right the first time than to modify it after it has already been made official. By handling the settlement on your own, you may end up with an agreement that you later regret. A divorce lawyer knows all about divorce laws in ways that you don’t.
Still interested in setting up a binding settlement agreement with no lawyers? This post will cover how you can do it.
How You and Your Spouse Can Make a Binding Settlement Agreement
You and your spouse can make your own settlement agreement before either of you files for divorce or after, although most handle it after one party has filed a petition for divorce. There are several items that the settlement agreement will need to cover.
The agreement needs to stipulate the division of property and financial matters, including debts. If you and your spouse have children, the agreement will need to include their living arrangements, a visitation schedule and child support. You and your spouse must also come to an agreement on spousal support.
If you and your spouse make your own settlement agreement, you can present it to a mediator and have them draw it up for you. Then, you two simply need to sign it and submit it to the court. A judge will review it, and if they approve of it, they’ll sign your divorce decree. The settlement agreement then becomes a legally binding document that you and your ex-spouse must follow.
Potential Problems with Making Your Own Settlement Agreement
The primary issue with you and your spouse making your own settlement agreement is the potential for an unfair agreement. If a judge doesn’t feel the agreement is fair, they may tell you and your spouse to renegotiate it. However, if the agreement becomes official and you later feel like it’s unfair, the process of changing it can be difficult. You will either need to get your spouse’s consent for any changes or file a motion with the court and demonstrate evidence for why the agreement should be modified.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you and your spouse want to make the settlement agreement on your own, you can still hire a divorce lawyer to simply look it over for you once it’s complete. Your lawyer can then let you know if there are any potential issues. If you do this, you will need to get your own lawyer, as you and your spouse can’t each have the same lawyer look over the agreement. That would be a conflict of interest for the lawyer, who needs to consider the interests of both you and your spouse.
What if you and your spouse agree on most points but are having trouble with one or two areas of the settlement? Hiring divorce lawyers can help with this, or you two can agree to a partial settlement on the points that you’ve already decided. With a partial settlement, any unsettled matters are left up to the court to decide.
You and your spouse may want to handle everything yourselves, but remember that this settlement agreement can affect you for the rest of your life. It’s much smarter to have a divorce lawyer looking out for you, at least to check the agreement before you submit it to the judge and make it official.