What is a Settlement Agreement?

A Settlement Agreement a written contract used to formally lay out how you will divide your marital property, your rights, and other matters like alimony and custody after you are divorced. The settlement agreement is what makes an uncontested divorce uncontested. Your local divorce attorney files it with the other documents to initiate your case. An uncontested divorce is when the spouses agree on the need to divorce, the division of their property, and other applicable marital assets and rights. What is a Settlement Agreement?In Alabama, these divorces are sometimes called no fault divorces. Generally, they are less expensive and are processed through the courts quicker than contested divorces. These factors make filing an uncontested divorce a fairly quick and easy process.

The agreement is to show the court how you have resolved all marital issues.. All property, assets, and debts acquired during the marriage are considered “martial property.” Even if an asset or debt was acquired individually during the marriage, it is considered marital property, including pensions and retirement plans. The court will generally consider non-marital property to remain with the original owner. Examples of non-marital property include assets or debts acquired before the date of marriage and gifts or inheritances to one individual during or before the marriage.

When the divorce lawyer files your uncontested divorce, you must sign a settlement agreement. This shows the court you agree on all the terms of the divorce and the “who gets what” after your divorce is finalized. If you have already signed the settlement agreement and no longer want to agree to those terms, you should consult with your attorney. Rescinding the settlement agreement is harder than rescinding the Complaint for Divorce (the first document you file with the court for divorce) and you will likely need the help of a divorce attorney to accomplish it.

In order to file an uncontested divorce, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirement of residing in the state of Alabama for at least six months prior to filing your complaint. In the uncontested divorce, you can file a divorce complaint in the Circuit Court of 1) the county where the Defendant resides, 2) in the county where the Plaintiff resides if the Defendant is not a resident of Alabama, or 3) in the county where the spouses resided at the time of separation. The divorce complaint is usually filed alongside a settlement agreement to show the court what you and your spouse have agreed to. 

When you agree to a settlement agreement in a divorce, it is a binding contract between the two of you.  Like your divorce decree, the settlement agreement will be a document that you will be obligated to follow for many years to come. As with any contract, you agreed to it at the time, so a judge is not going to let you out of the contract very easily.  The more time that has passed since you agreed to the contract, the more likely a judge may let you alter parts of it or get out of certain aspects of the agreement as situations are more likely to change significantly over a long period of time. In order to make such changes later on, you must show a substantial change in circumstances, which can be difficult sometimes.

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