Settling Your Divorce: Understanding the Fine Print

Spring Lake NJ Divorce AttorneyWhen a person begins the divorce process, one of the first things that they can (and probably should) do is speak with an experienced divorce attorney. Barring a spouse’s complete lack of willingness to negotiate or some other extreme circumstance, most divorce attorneys will advise their client to attempt to settle their divorce through pre-trial negotiations, rather than relying on the final rulings of a judge who has no knowledge of the unique lives, circumstances, and needs of the divorcing parties and their family as a whole.

Of course, settling a divorce rather than relying on courtroom litigation has the benefit of being much less expensive, much less time-consuming, and generally much less stressful. However, the importance of having not only a knowledgeable Ocean County divorce attorney, but also one who will communicate to you all of the various implications and potential considerations of your Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA, also referred to as a Divorce Settlement Agreement) cannot be stressed enough, and here’s why:

Divorce Settlement Agreements and Understanding the Fine Print, Spring Lake Divorce Attorney

Divorcing couples are often encouraged by the legal system itself to settle their divorce matters through negotiations and settlement, rather than litigation. Part of this is because divorce settlement agreements have the flexibility of adding clauses and understandings above and beyond what the law strictly states in order to allow the divorcing couple to craft an agreement which specifically addresses their own unique situation and needs.

As long as these special provisions are unambiguous in their language, they will stand up to scrutiny in most post-divorce proceedings, even though one party or the other didn’t necessarily understand what they were agreeing to at the time that they signed the divorce settlement agreement itself.

We will provide a clear example of exactly such a situation in the next section, but the most important part to understand here is that while settling your divorce can often be very beneficial to you and your family as a whole on a number of different levels, it is critical that when doing so, you work with a Spring Lake divorce attorney who will clearly explain to you exactly what you are agreeing to, and the various implications it can have on your life and legal rights down the road.

Post-Divorce Litigation Case Surrounding a Divorce Settlement Agreement, Point Pleasant Post-Divorce Lawyer

In the recent case of T.L.H. v. M.H., the divorcing parties agreed to terms regarding the modification and termination of alimony based on cohabitation above and beyond what the law specifically states. Their divorce settlement agreement included language which defined “cohabitation” as being not only what NJ law already states, but also to include if and when, the wife in this case, moved in with a family member or friend.

After their divorce was resolved, the wife moved in with her sister, and out of the family home. Under existing NJ cohabitation laws, such a move would not constitute a change in circumstance, nor would it be considered “cohabitation”, meaning the husband could not petition for the modification or termination of their alimony agreement. However, thanks to the specific language included within their divorce settlement agreement which defined cohabitation to include living with a family member of friend, the husband was able to successfully file for and secure the termination of their alimony agreement based on this change in circumstance.

Of course, this was not the wife’s understanding of their agreement, but upon filing an appeal, the Appellate Division confirmed the Trial Court’s original decision to terminate alimony, stating:

“..there were no compelling reasons to depart from the clear, unambiguous, and mutually understood terms of the MSA. The agreement was voluntary, knowing and consensual, and the alimony-termination event upon cohabitation was fair under the circumstances of the case.”

Essentially, both the Trial Court and the Appeals Court found that even though NJ cohabitation laws do not define cohabitation as living with a family member, thanks to the language contained within the parties’ marital settlement agreement, such a change in circumstance in this specific case did in fact warrant the termination of alimony payments.

This is a perfect example of a why it is so important that, when settling your Ocean County divorce, it is crucial that you have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of exactly what you are agreeing to, and why it is so important to work with an attorney who is not only knowledgeable, but is also able to clearly communicate their knowledge to you.

Contact An Ocean County Divorce Attorney Today

At The Bronzino Law Firm, we have extensive experience helping our clients to negotiate, create, and fully understand fair and effective divorce settlement agreements in towns across Ocean County and Monmouth County, including Spring Lake, Point Pleasant, Toms River, Sea Girt, Jackson, Howell, Wall, Brick, and the surrounding communities.

Attorney Peter J. Bronzino understands the importance of not only being able to negotiate for fair and situation-specific divorce agreements, but also making sure each of his clients is highly involved throughout the legal process, and are fully aware of the long-term and short-term implications those agreements can have on their financial, legal, and parental rights.

To speak with Peter Bronzino and our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce or any kind of post-divorce modification or enforcement matter, your unique needs and concerns regarding whatever family law issue you are facing, and how exactly we can help you to resolve your legal matter in an effective and highly communicative manner, please contact us online, or through our Brick, NJ office at (732) 812-3102.