Many divorces are settled through negotiation rather than through a final divorce hearing in Indiana. Most people know that in order to come to a divorce settlement they need to agree on child support, child custody, a visitation schedule, and how to divide major assets such as the home and retirement accounts.
However, a divorce settlement agreement is an extremely important document. For many people this is the most important legal document that they have ever signed. This document will control your actions with respect to your rights and obligations arising out of your divorce for your property, debts, children and everything else. It is extremely important to understand that the more detailed the divorce settlement agreement is, the less likely that you and your soon to be ex-spouse will have more to fight about in the future. A divorce settlement agreement should be able to answer as many questions as possible regarding the division of your marital estate and your children (visitation, support, expenses, etc) as possible so that after your divorce is final you are less likely to have to pay your attorney again to bring your ex back to Court.
Financially, there are a lot of issues that should be decided in your settlement agreement, including, but not limited to the following:
1. Home. If you own a house, who will keep the home, how with the other party be awarded his or her half of the home equity. Will the house need to be sold? If so, who gets to select a real estate agent? How will the proceeds of the sale be split? Who will be able to live in the house until it sells and who will continue to make the mortgage payment? Who will be responsible for the utility payments and any unexpected home repair expenses?
2. Taxes. How will your income taxes be filed during the year of your divorce? Who will be able to claim the children as deductions? What about that gift you made to your church last year? Who will be able to take that charitable contribution on their taxes? Who will be able to take the deduction for mortgage interest and medical expenses?
3. Healthcare. Which spouse will provide health insurance for the children? What about expenses that are not covered by health insurance? Do the children need braces? If so, how will the braces be paid for? What about any mental or physical therapy that a child needs on an ongoing basis? Who will be responsible for this cost?
4. Children’s Sports/Extracurricular Activities: Can you afford all of the sports and extracurricular activities that the children participated in prior to the divorce? Perhaps the parties agree that they cannot and the children will no longer participate. If the children can still partake in some activities, which ones? Who will pay for them? Will this activity fee be in addition to the child support? How long is the child going to be able to participate in this activity?
5. Personal Property and Cars: Have you already divided all of your personal property? Are there any additional important items that one spouse would like from the marital home? What about family photos? How are those going to be divided up? Can the spouse simply come to the home to get the item? Or, will it be delivered to your attorney’s office for you to pick up? What about vehicles? Which car will you take and then who will be responsible for paying any remaining loan balance on the car? Will any personal property be sold? If so, where? At a garage sale, through auction? And how will the proceeds be divided?
6. Life Insurance: Will you both be required to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the children? How long are those policies required to be in place? Will this policy a term policy or whole life? What about the whole life policies you already have? Who will own those? Will they remain in place or will you surrender them for the cash value? How will the value be divided if you are surrendering the policy?
7. Child Visitation: Will you simply follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines? If not, how will you deviate from it? Where will you pick up/drop off the children for parenting time? Who will be responsible for getting the children to school on time and picking them up each day?
There are many, many more topics that must be discussed and agreed upon between the parties for an effective settlement agreement. If a relevant topic is not discussed in the divorce settlement agreement it is more likely that there will be a future disagreement and that the parties will end up back in court, which means more attorneys fees for all of the parties involved. Examples of other provisions of a divorce settlement agreement that should be included, if applicable, are: pets, college expenses, retirement accounts, debts, timeshares, vacation homes, rental properties, inheritances, business interests, brokerage accounts/financial investments, child care expenses and determination of who will provide child care. The list goes on and on. If you are going through a divorce and would like to make sure that an issue is addressed in your divorce settlement agreement make sure to bring it up with your divorce lawyer.
If you are an Indianapolis, Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, Zionsville, Westfield resident or have a divorce case in Marion, Hamilton or Boone counties in Indiana and need a divorce attorney call Halcomb Singler for a consultation. Our attorney will meet with you for a paid consultation to discuss your case and answer your questions at our Carmel, Indiana office. For an appointment call us at (317) 575-8222.