What is a marital settlement agreement? In an uncontested divorce action in Wisconsin, which is when you and your spouse have agreed on all issues, we call the marital settlement agreement the final agreement that you and your spouse would both sign and agree upon — all the terms and conditions that is then filed with the Court. At that point, the Court then accepts your agreement and grants you a divorce.  

This gives you and your spouse certainty as well as control over the outcome of your divorce. Sometimes with a trial, it’s a little bit less certain, and you’re leaving the outcome in the hands of somebody else, i.e., such as the judge. That is why a marital settlement agreement is really important. So in the cases where you have two parties that can talk and compromise on issues, you certainly want to explore the idea of doing the marital settlement agreement.  

A marital settlement agreement is going to include:

  • basically all terms that affect your children if you have kids such as:

  1. you need to determine who is going to have legal custody of the children; joint legal custody or sole legal custody will need to be decided

  2. physical placement is where the children live and who they spend time with and how often and what the schedule would be; don’t forget about the holidays and the times off of school such as spring breaks, winter breaks, and things of that nature

  3. whether or not one parent is going to be paying child support or not as well as health care expenses. Who is going to  carry health insurance for the children? Is that going to be health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance? What is the cost of that? How have you allocated that? You want to make sure to consider that and put that into your agreement. You want to talk about uninsured medical expenses. Those are the things that insurance doesn’t cover and who is responsible for that other provisions concerning the children would certainly come down to taxes, child tax credit, tax exemption and you want to make sure that your settlement agreement identifies that and who is being allocated those tax credits or exemptions

  4. variable expenses for the kids. Those are the things like how are we going to pay for school registration, school supplies? If the kids are a little bit older, maybe like driver’s ed fees and things of that nature

  • All terms that affect your finances, your incomes, assets, debts, and liabilities

  • Spousal support — Wisconsin calls that maintenance. Other states may call it alimony. Your agreement needs to determine whether or not there will be spousal support, which are payments from one spouse to the other spouse to help support that person

  • Personal property obviously is a big one. Starting with the bigger personal property things such as the home and real estate and how that will be divided up. Who is getting the house? If somebody is buying somebody out and the pay off or equalization payment for that. You want to certainly have provisions in there about any second homes that you have or investment properties 

  • If there was a business that was started during the marriage or even before, you need to make sure to allocate the business and who is getting the business and how that all works out

  • Retirement plans, pension plans, bank accounts, checking and savings, money market and CDs, any bank account, HSAs, HRAs all of that needs to be considered and placed into the settlement agreement

  • What about debts? Yes, we need to allocate the debts and figure out who is responsible for the debts and properly lay that out in the settlement agreement so everyone is completely on board and understands the payment of debt

  • Tax filing and are you going to file as a married couple up to a certain period of time or if you’re getting divorced, of course, then you would be filing separately after that, but you may need to have some provisions in there to comply with the IRS and your state tax authority to figure out how you handle taxes for the year that you’re getting divorced

  • There is going to be other standard language in your settlement agreements that talk about protecting one another from the other party not following through on the agreement. You’re going to put standard provisions in there to make sure that people are signing documents like titles and deeds and things like that to transfer property that has to be transferred.  

So as you can see in the settlement agreement, there is just a lot there and it’s another reason why you want to sit down with an attorney if you don’t have one and make sure that you’re covering everything. And if you do have an attorney, make sure again, sit down with your attorney and make sure the details are laid out. Don’t let the attorney off the hook by saying, “Don’t worry about it. We don’t need to cover that.” Absolutely not. You want these things in writing so there is certainty and you can move on in life.  

If you want to get more value, please reach out to an attorney like me. Ask some questions that are specific to your case. Hire an attorney to help you with that matter. It will be worth your time and your money in the long run and it will give you that certainty that you’re looking for.