While it is often thought that a Judge determines the terms of a divorce
or paternity action, the reality is that, in a majority of cases in Florida,
the parties are able to negotiate and settle their case without the necessity
of going to trial. The contract that contains all the terms of a divorce
is called the “Marital Settlement Agreement” or it may be
referred to as the “Mediated Settlement Agreement.” A copy
of this agreement is incorporated into a Final Judgment and creates a
legally enforceable obligation between the parties in a case.
These agreements can cover a variety of items, including, but not limited
to, division of property, division of debt, child custody, alimony, and
child support. One of the main advantages of creating a Settlement Agreement
is the ability the parties will have to negotiate its terms. This is not
the case when you are in front of the Judge. With a Settlement Agreement,
the parties can explore different options and decide on what will best
suit their lifestyles and their needs.
While many parties do decide to write their own Settlement Agreements,
I always advise people to be represented by an Attorney or to, at a minimum,
have an Attorney review the terms of their Settlement Agreement before
they sign it. I have met many people who simply refused to hire an Attorney
because they did not want to spend the money on legal fees. Instead, they
decided to use one of the standard forms approved by the Florida Supreme
Court. Unfortunately, I have seen these people make significant mistakes
in their Settlement Agreements.
It is important to remember that once a Settlement Agreement is signed,
there is virtually no going back. A Settlement Agreement is a contract.
Absent a showing of fraud or some other extenuating circumstance, a Judge
will hold you accountable for all the terms you agreed to in your Settlement
Agreement. I have seen a variety of issues come back to haunt parties
who did not have air tight Settlement Agreements covering a multitude
Even if you choose not to retain an Orlando attorney in your dissolution
of marriage, you can and should consult with an Orlando family law attorney
before you sign a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Orlando divorce attorneys
at Longwell Lawyers, can suggest proper legal language, highlight important
terms that may have been missed, and ensure that your legal rights are
protected. If you need help with your Marital Settlement Agreement
click or call (407) 426-5757 today.