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Marital Settlement Agreements in a Florida Divorce

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A marital settlement agreement, or MSA, in the State of Florida, is a contract that lays out all terms agreed upon by a couple as to their rights and responsibilities after divorce. These agreements usually have all terms regarding the party’s equitable distribution of the parties financial issues, spousal support, child support, etc. See Florida Marital Settlement Agreement. Both spouses must understand, agree, and sign the marital settlement agreement once it is in its final form. Once the spouses enter into the agreement, the Florida courts will then enter what is called a final judgment. See Florida Final Judgment. In some cases, the Florida court will not attach the agreement to the final judgement, but it is fully incorporated therein.

Parties reach the point of entering into a marital settlement agreement in some cases after negotiations, collaboration, and even sometimes mediation. The negotiation process is the most common way Florida divorces are settled with the spouse’s attorney’s advocating on your behalf until a resolution is met. Mediation involves a neutral third-party that assists the parties in reaching a solution. See Florida Mediation. The collaboration process indicates off the bat that the couple will not be litigating the divorce. 

Florida caselaw has found marital settlement agreements to be legally binding as any other contract in law. See Feliciano v. Munoz-Feliciano, 190 So. 3d 232, 234 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016); Reilly v. Reilly, 94 So.3d 693, 696 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). In divorce cases, terms within the agreement that relate to child support or spousal support are modifiable if the party can establish that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” according to Florida Statute 61.14. See Florida Statute 61.14. Child support is always modifiable and spousal support however may be non-modifiable if the agreement expressly states as such. Changes to the marital settlement agreement will only occur if both parties agree or if one party brings the modification to the court and there are proceedings on the matter.

Marital settlement agreements are typically prepared and entered into outside of the courts. The benefit to this is that you and your spouse do not need the court’s intervention to assist in laying out the terms of your agreement. Negotiations as to the terms of the agreement should continue until both you and your spouse are comfortable with all terms within it.

When it comes to preparing a marital settlement agreement, you do not need an attorney to prepare it. However, the legal language can be confusing, so we recommend each spouse hiring their own attorney to assist in negotiations, drafting, and the preparation of your marital settlement agreement. In order to best protect your rights, it is recommended that you have your own attorney. This will ensure that you have legal protection and your best interests are always in mind.

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