Property Settlement Agreements

The Basics

A property settlement agreement is a binding contract between you and your spouse that outlines the terms of your divorce.  In its most basic form it will cover the division of assets, disposal of debts, custody of children, spousal and child support.  There is no limit on the level of detail however, and the agreement can be tailored to your unique circumstances.  For instance a property settlement agreement can address the division of retirement accounts, payment for a child’s post-secondary education, how to take advantage of specific tax credits, which spouse will pay for the marital home while it is being sold, and the mechanics of day-to-day living.  These are just examples and the possibilities for property settlement agreements are truly endless. 

The main advantage of a property settlement agreement is that it allows you and your spouse to decide the terms of the divorce instead of a judge.  If there are no minor children involved it will also reduce the mandatory period of separation from one year to six months.  Finally, a property settlement agreement is useful for making decisions about situations where the court does not have the power to decide for you. 

A Focus on Negotiation

The attorneys of Smith Strong are well-versed in all facets of property settlement agreements from drafting to negotiating, reviewing, and finalizing the agreement.  We view property settlement agreements as an opportunity for us to step outside of our role as lawyers and become true family law artists, finding creative ways to solve problems and crafting unique agreements that are tailored to your circumstances.  We use our tact, and emotional intelligence, to evaluate your situation and provide solutions that will allow you and your spouse to reach an agreement without drawn-out litigation.   

Property Settlement AgreementWhat separates our attorneys is the emphasis we place on trust and integrity.  Negotiations for property settlement agreements can become contentious, but at Smith Strong we believe they do not have to be.  We want your spouse, if not represented by an attorney, to feel comfortable coming into our office to discuss the terms of the agreement.  We have built that reputation by ensuring our attorneys remain to true to their word and treat everyone involved in the negotiations with respect.  After all, there is the common goal of coming to a resolution and the property settlement agreement can only be finalized when both parties agree to the terms.  That is why we have found that working for you, but still commanding the respect of your spouse is the best formula for successful property settlement agreements.

While a property settlement agreement is often the most efficient and practical way to conduct your divorce, it is necessary to recognize that these agreements do have limitations.  They do not automatically end your marriage; the marriage is not legally over until the court issues the divorce decree.  That means any romantic relationship with someone other then your spouse before the divorce decree is granted can be considered adultery—unless your agreement specifically says otherwise.  The agreements are also enforceable only as contracts until they are incorporated into the divorce decree.  Once a property settlement agreement is incorporated its terms can be enforced through contempt-of-court proceedings.  It is also particularly important to remember that these agreements are binding.  They can be modified in certain situations, such as to adjust child support, but for the most part they cannot be changed at a later date.  This means you need to pay careful attention to each of the terms of the agreement and it is important to have an attorney review it for you. 

 Our unique approach to property settlement agreement negotiations is built on creating a respectful environment that allows you and your spouse to reach an agreement that is fair and fits your lives.  We are pleased with the growing recognition we have received due to our success in this area.  As of 2015, Smith Strong, PLC has received four times as many positive reviews as any other Central Virginia family law firm on a neutral, independent, third-party website.  Additionally, founder Van Smith was recently recognized as a Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2014.  We can help you draft, negotiate, and review a property settlement agreement that will make your divorce as painless as possible. 

References:

Va. Code Ann. § 20-155