Step 5: Sign & Seal

When all of the parenting, financial, and tax decisions are made, the next step is to include them in a written document called the Marital Settlement Agreement.

This Agreement is often the most important legal document you sign during your life time. The specific language in the Agreement dismantles past joint lives and creates new separate individual lives. It will protect each divorcing spouse in many ways. The Alpha Center will include specific language in the Marital Settlement Agreement that makes it much more likely that Clients will abide by the Agreement rather than risk serious penalties. After the Alpha Attorney-Mediator reviews the Marital Settlement Agreement with Clients, and they are given an “Attorney Draft” that they take to outside attorneys for a second opinion. When everyone is comfortable with the terms of the Marital Settlement Agreement, it is signed and sealed by a notary.

Alpha Working Draft Review Meeting

Prior to meeting the clients, the Attorney-Mediator prepares the Working Draft of the Marital Settlement Agreement based on the terms from the parenting, financial, and tax mediations. Clients meet with the Alpha Center Attorney-Mediator to review the Working Draft of the Marital Settlement Agreement. Alpha Center Attorney-Mediators take great care to write the Agreement in “plain English” so it can be more easily understood. They make sure during this meeting that Clients fully understand the entire Agreement. Clients have an opportunity to ask questions and address any remaining concerns they may have. They are given a separate checklist of all steps that need to be taken to comply with the Agreement.

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Questions and Answers

Why does MSA have to be in Writing?
You can have a verbal agreement between the two of you but there are some serious problems that you are likely to encounter if you do not secure a written Marital Settlement Agreement. Even if you have been given assurances and feel that you can trust the word of your spouse, it is not wise to rely on that trust to protect you far into the future. When you decide to separate or divorce, the dynamics of both of your lives are likely to undergo significant change and you will be much more secure with your Agreement in writing. Here is one of the many possibilities: There are often new romantic interests that change an ex-spouse’s attitudes and goals. If a home is to be purchased or sold, most of the time the transaction will not be allowed without a written Agreement. Without a written document that clearly defines each of your rights and obligations, either one of you can lose ground that you may never regain.
Can we Write our Own Agreement?
Marital Settlement Agreements and the law that impacts them are highly technical matters. Writing your own Agreement is a bit like fixing your own car (for most of us). We have online access to instruction manuals and forms but the car is not likely to run safely and smoothly far into the future if we have not secured the expertise of a professional. Similarly, we risk greater future legal expenses and complications if we do not secure the advice of a seasoned legal professional. It is likely to be the most important Agreement you sign in your lifetime so it is worth the effort to make sure it is done right.
What Happens if Someone Violates the Agreement?
All Alpha Center Agreements contain specific language that makes it very expensive to “breach” the Agreement. The person who is found to violate the Agreement will be responsible for paying all of the legal fees for the person who abided by and enforced the Agreement.
Is the Agreement Sent to the Court?
The Agreement is send to the Court when a final divorce decree is requested so becomes a “Court Order” along with the decree.

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