Preparing a Legal Separation Agreement Or Marital Property Settlement Agreement Without a Lawyer

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Preparing a Legal Separation Agreement Or Marital Property Settlement Agreement Without a Lawyer Powered By Docstoc
					In recent years, increasing numbers of people opted to draft their own
separation agreement (also sometimes referred to as a property settlement
agreement or marital settlement agreement) without hiring a lawyer. By
keeping lawyers out of the process, couples can retain more control over
their personal affairs and save thousands of dollars on legal fees. Of
course, the risk of doing your own separation agreement is that you may
not have sufficient knowledge of your state's domestic relations laws,
and thus end up with an agreement that cannot withstand a legal challenge
by one of the parties if that should occur.However, there are some basic
legal principals applicable to legal separation agreements that apply in
virtually all 50 states. Perhaps the most important principal is the
requirement of financial disclosure. This means that both parties to any
marital agreement must share with each other full and complete financial
information. If one party withholds material information regarding
income, assets, liabilities or other financial matters, he or she may be
deemed to have violated his or fiduciary responsibility to the other.
Accordingly, prior to the execution of a property settlement agreement,
each party should provide the other with a complete, written disclosure
of all relevant financial matters.In addition, it is important that
neither party be subjected to undue pressure. This means that both the
husband and the wife must be given ample opportunity to consider the
proposed terms and conditions, and that there is an opportunity to engage
in negotiation regarding the agreement. Even if lawyers are not retained,
both parties should acknowledge in the body of the agreement that he or
she is aware of the opportunity to retain independent legal counsel and
has voluntarily elected to proceed without an attorney.While courts
generally enforce the provisions of separation agreements that address
property matters (equitable distribution and/or community property
division), the issue of child support is frequently treated differently.
In most states, an agreement between parents regarding child support is
subject to subsequent modification by a court. This most frequently
arises when a party to a separation agreement subsequently alleges that
the separation agreement provides for inadequate support or a substantial
change in circumstances occurs after the separation agreement has been
signed.Sometimes, the noncustodial parent argues that the level of child
support provided for by a separation agreement is too high. Recently,
courts in California ruled that a separation agreement's provision
stating that there shall be no downward modification of child support was
not enforceable and did not usurp the court's statutory power to modify
child support. However, in Michigan, a court reached a different
conclusion, ruling that ruling that a man who agreed to give his ex-wife
25% of his yearly bonuses as child support, in addition to monthly
support payments, was bound by the terms of his agreement.In summary, a
do it yourself separation agreement or property settlement is usually
feasible and, quite often, financially advantageous. However, the parties
should enter into the process with open lines of communication, full
disclosure, and should consider using a property settlement agreement
form or template for guidance. State-specific separation agreement forms
and property settlement templates are available online.

				
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