The vast majority of divorce cases are settled out of court. When parties are able to come to an agreement, their attorneys draft what is called a Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement (commonly referred to as a “PSA” or “MSA”) that contains the provisions of their agreement. This document is essentially a contract between the parties on how their assets and debts will be divided after the divorce, as well as other essential issues. A court will incorporate the PSA into its final divorce decree, and it will become part of the court order.
As is suggested by the title, a PSA will divide the parties’ property. Many PSAs will include a detailed list of which spouse will be receiving which pieces of furniture, household items, electronics, and other items of personal property. A PSA will also make detailed division of the parties’ debts. Note that despite the fact that a PSA provides that one party is solely responsible for a debt, this PSA cannot bind the original holder of the loan - in other words, if both parties signed a loan agreement, the PSA cannot force the loan holder to let one of the spouses out of the contract. If the parties own real property, the PSA will state which party receives the property, or if it is to be sold, and how any proceeds or remaining debt is to be divided. It may be necessary to have one party sign a quitclaim deed separately from the PSA in order to complete the property transfer. Alimony, retirement accounts, and bank accounts will all be dealt with in the PSA as well.
Despite the name, a PSA will include resolution of issues in addition to just property. Most significantly, the PSA will resolve issues of child custody and child support. The PSA will state whether the parents share joint custody and detail the visitation schedule. Other rights and responsibilities such as medical decision making and what to do in case of a pending relocation out of state will also be included. If the parents agree to include paramour clauses, special provisions for religion, or other custom provisions, these will also be found in the PSA. Child support will also be in a PSA, as will which parent is responsible for carrying health insurance, responsibility for extracurricular expenses, and other child related financial responsibilities. These provisions should be carefully considered, as a PSA can be difficult to modify.We have extensive experience in helping our clients reach beneficial settlements. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about how to draft a PSA that helps you reach your future goals.