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7 Divorce Settlement Terms You Want, and 1 You Don't

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Reading about the multi-million dollar divorce settlements of the stars leaves a lot of soon-to-be-former spouses wondering what they should be asking for in their divorce settlements. Unfortunately, for those of us not counted among the super-rich, what's negotiated for will be much more humble.

Although family law is primarily controlled by state law, there are several general terms in a divorce settlement agreement that a party should be sure to ask and argue for, and be ready to negotiate over.

What to Ask for in a Divorce Settlement

1. The Kids: While children are frequently included on a separate child custody agreement, children are frequently included in divorce settlement negotiations due to their impact on the division of assets.

2. The House and Car: Divorcing parties generally must decide whether one party will get the house and car, or each will be sold and the proceeds split, or some other arrangement will be made. But so long as some marital assets went into the purchase, or maintenance, then it is likely both spouses have a financial interest in the property. In the case of rentals and leases, it can be difficult to decide who will assume the obligation.

3. The Dog: While many courts will still treat a family pet like a piece of property, many courts are allowing shared pet custody. It is rather common to include in the divorce settlement who gets the pet, or who will be responsible for the care (vet bills) and primary custody of a pet.

4. Alimony and Child Support: Spousal and child support are frequently included in divorce settlements. Both are considered separately, and both are temporary in duration, with different factors determining the amount and length of each.

5. Kid's College Tuition or Post Graduation Plans: Child support orders and agreements frequently end when a child graduates high school or turns 18. However, frequently, parents determined to send their children to college will include terms to provide for child support until a child finishes college.

6. Attorney Fees: Although attorneys ethically cannot work on a contingency/percentage basis when it comes to divorce and child support matters, some will take cases on the assumption that the other side will agree, or be ordered by the court, to pay their fees.

7. Flexibility: Life can get crazy sometimes. Including terms that allow for some flexibility, forgiveness, and a set procedure for making changes to the agreement over time, while potentially annoying to you, could end up saving you considerable headache.

What You Don't Want: Debts and Other Obligations

Having a full view of the finances of both parties in a divorce involves not just knowing about all the owned assets, but also being aware of the debts and obligations. When a couple divorces, joint debts may still be enforceable against both former spouses. However, debts are frequently divided in the settlement.

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