Montgomery County Marital Settlement Agreement Attorney
Almost all marriage dissolutions, even complex high-asset divorces, settle out of court. In a few cases, especially if the spouses had no children, limited assets, and at least one of them has moved on emotionally, these settlement agreements do not take long to forge. However, these situations are quite rare. Sometimes, it could take many months of negotiations to reach an agreement. That process usually involves many peaks and valleys.
Over the years, the experienced Montgomery County marital settlement agreement attorneys at Kardos, Rickles & Hand have resolved thousands of divorces out of court. Truthfully, some lawyers prefer to resolve cases this way because they like to take the easy way out. But that’s not our approach. We always fully prepare your case as if it will go all the way to trial, because that’s how far we’re willing to go to protect your legal and financial rights. But if a better alternative is available, we do not hesitate to recommend it.
A marital settlement agreement must equitably divide the marital estate, including both assets and debts.
To reach that point, attorneys must first classify property as marital or nonmarital. Since property becomes mixed and commingled, that’s not always easy to do. Then, the agreement must equitably divide property according to some statutory factors, including:
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Relative future earning capacity of each spouse,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
- Nonmarital property distributions, and
- Tax considerations.
In this context, “equitable” usually means “equal,” but that is not always the case. Disproportionate divisions are not uncommon.
Any alimony award must be equitable as well. In general, the judge considers the obligor’s ability to pay and the obligee’s economic need.
Somewhat similarly, child custody and child support matters must be in the best interests of the children.
Pennsylvania’s co-parenting law presumes that children benefit from frequent and consistent contact with both parents. Traditional arrangements, like every other weekend and every other holiday, do not always meet a family’s needs. Other arrangements, such as block scheduling, are available.
Much like an equitable property division, Pennsylvania law includes some best interests factors to consider, such as:
- Child’s preferences,
- Parent’s preferences,
- Division of responsibilities during the marriage,
- Consistency for the children, and
- Child’s relationship with step-relatives.
Generally, guidelines determine the child support obligation. These guidelines usually account for the income of both parents, the parenting time division, and some other factors. Judges have some discretion to deviate from these guidelines in extreme cases.
Family Law Mediation
Montgomery County judges normally refer contested divorces to mediation. A third party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Pennsylvania family law attorney, meets with both sides and tries to facilitate a settlement.
Mediation has a number of benefits. It reduces legal costs, partially because it’s easier to prepare for mediation, and partially because it ends the case early. Additionally, mediation gives participants more control over the outcome. The alternative is usually judicially-dictated terms. Finally, mediation encourages civility. Instead of an emotional courtroom showdown, a relatively calm meeting wraps things up.
Because of these benefits, if both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is generally at least partially successful.
Connect with a Diligent Attorney
Marital settlement agreements resolve most Pennsylvania divorces. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Montgomery County, contact Kardos, Rickles & Hand. After-hours visits are available.