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Divorce | Family

What Is a Settlement Order in Divorce?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Getting a divorce is often a long process. Depending on the laws in your state, it can take anywhere from three to eighteen months.

During this time, you and your spouse are faced with all of the steps and decisions involved in a divorce—property and asset division, alimony, child custody, and the like. All of these details are included in your divorce settlement agreement.

A settlement order memorializes all of the details of your divorce agreement. Once this information is solidified in your settlement order, parties must follow the agreement details. 

For help with your divorce, a lawyer is your best ally. A divorce attorney can represent you and your best interests, helping you get a favorable outcome. We can connect you today with an unbundled divorce attorney in your area, which will save you substantial fees.

If you’re going through a divorce, you can expect to receive a final settlement order at the end of your divorce proceedings. Continue reading to better understand the process and get answers to commonly asked questions.

What Does a Divorce Settlement Order Usually Include?

Depending on your situation, many topics may be covered during your divorce. These are some of the most important details in your settlement:

  • How to divide property and assets
  • Specifics involving child custody and visitation rights
  • Whether either parent is to pay child support, and if so, how much and for how long
  • Whether either spouse is to pay the other alimony, and if so, the amount and duration

These are the most basic details, but your circumstances may involve other issues.

Do My Spouse and I Need To Go to Court for a Divorce Settlement Order?

That will depend on your circumstances and the laws in your state.

If you and your spouse can agree on the important terms, you may create your agreement and submit it to the court for approval. If the judge believes the terms are reasonable and fair, they will approve the agreement and grant your divorce. You may be able to avoid the courtroom in situations like this.

If the divorce is contentious, you will likely need to go to court to have a judge hear your case. There, the judge can consider both sides and any presented evidence and testimony to make decisions regarding your divorce.

Can Spouses Create Their Own Divorce Settlement Agreement?

Yes, if you can agree, you and your spouse can create your own agreement.

This is challenging for most spouses, as divorce brings out the worst in people. However, there are certain benefits to working together and creating your agreement yourselves. Among other things, it can save plenty of time and money for both parties.

If you are able to agree on some issues but not others, a judge can assist with making the remaining decisions before finalizing your divorce.

The ideal agreement considers both parties’ goals and wishes, with spouses usually compromising and meeting in the middle on most topics. If you need guidance when creating your agreement, a family lawyer is best equipped to help.

Tips for Creating a Divorce Settlement Agreement

If you wish to work with your spouse to resolve your issues, the following points may help you achieve your goals and reach a suitable outcome:

  • Communicate openly: Try to put your differences aside and communicate openly and respectfully with one another. The better the communication, the quicker and more efficient the process can be. 
  • Gather all of your financial information: For a thorough divorce agreement, you need to know what you’re working with. Both spouses should collect their financial information to better assess and come up with a plan. 
  • Discuss property and asset division: Determine what property you share, as there is an important distinction between marital property and separate property. Then, consider certain details, including what to do with the marital property, how you will divide bank accounts, and which spouse will take on what debt.
  • Discuss child custody: If you have children, making decisions regarding child custody is vital. Determine the best living arrangement for the child and visitation schedules.
  • Discuss child support: Will both parents share children’s expenses evenly, or will one spouse pay child support? Consider which parent will pay the other child support and how much the payments should be.
  • Discuss alimony: Is there a disparity in incomes? If so, perhaps one spouse can pay the other alimony. Specify when alimony payments will start, how much they will be, and how long they will last. 
  • Consider mediation, if needed: If, after reasonable efforts, you and your spouse are unable to resolve all issues, you may consider going through mediation. During mediation, a third-party mediator works with both parties to facilitate healthy communication and help spouses agree on important topics. Mediation fosters an honest and cooperative environment to better reach resolutions.

If you or your spouse need additional guidance, it is best to discuss your situation with a qualified family lawyer. An attorney can help create a divorce agreement and is also able to represent your best interests should you choose to go through mediation.

Enforcing the Divorce Settlement Order

If one spouse is not following the settlement order, you can ask the court for help. You can file a motion with the court, providing proof that your ex-spouse has violated the order in some way. 

Some circumstances may require a spouse to seek assistance from the court, including an ex-spouse failing to make child support or alimony payments or violation of the child custody agreement.

If an ex-spouse violates any part of a divorce order, the judge may decide to hold them in contempt of court. Being in contempt means an individual has violated a court order and faces consequences. Repercussions can include jail time and fines. 

Can a Divorce Agreement Be Modified?

Yes, you may modify a divorce order. However, there needs to be a substantial reason to request a modification. 

Typically, for a court to grant a modification, the individual requesting the modification must show there is a material or substantial change in circumstance or a mutual agreement between the parties.  

If a Judge Creates the Final Divorce Order, Can I Appeal It?

It is much easier when spouses create their divorce agreement together, but this is not always possible. In many cases, a judge will need to step in and decide on issues before finalizing your divorce.

When a judge decides, one spouse may disagree with the judge’s decision. If this happens, be sure to discuss any possible objections with a lawyer. Your attorney may be able to file an appeal for your divorce settlement order. 

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with a Divorce Settlement Order?

It is best when parties can resolve their issues on their own and create a divorce agreement. However, even when spouses are agreeable, a family lawyer can still help throughout the process.

A lawyer can handle certain tasks:

  • Addressing questions and concerns
  • Providing legal advice
  • Explaining your legal rights and responsibilities
  • Drafting your agreement
  • Reviewing your agreement
  • Filing your agreement with the court
  • Representing you in mediation or before a judge
  • Appealing your divorce order, if necessary

Even if spouses can agree and work together, they should still seek their own respective lawyers.

Consider Hiring an Unbundled Lawyer for Guidance with Your Divorce Settlement

Having a family lawyer can make the divorce settlement process much more streamlined and eliminate many of the common stressors. But legal help can get expensive rather quickly. For this reason, many choose to go without legal representation. 

An unbundled lawyer can make legal help more accessible while eliminating the fear of costly fees.

An unbundled lawyer is the same as a traditional lawyer, but they offer different services. You hire a traditional lawyer to represent you throughout your entire case; an unbundled lawyer, on the other hand, only provides legal services when you need them. Whether it be giving legal advice, drafting your divorce agreement, or representing your best interests during your mediation, you’ll only pay your lawyer for the services you need most, while you handle the less technical and more administrative matters

Unbundled Legal Help recognizes the need for competent, high-quality legal representation at a more affordable cost. We have a network of skilled unbundled lawyers ready to help you. Unlike traditional legal fees, unbundled legal services start at $500-$1,500.

If you’re facing a divorce, you’re never alone. Contact Unbundled Legal Help today and let us connect you with an unbundled divorce lawyer in your area.

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