A divorce settlement agreement is a legal agreement that outlines decisions relating to child custody, child support, alimony, spousal support, and the division of property. There are several different terms used for divorce settlement agreements including:

  • Mediated Settlement Agreement
  • Agreement Incident to Divorce
  • Agreed Final Decree of Divorce
  • Informal Settlement Agreement

What Is Included in a Divorce Settlement Agreement?

As the division of property and responsibilities is detailed in a divorce settlement, it can cover any of the following:

It even covers things such as how country club memberships and frequent flyer miles will be divided. Tax payments and legal names may be included, as well as any provisions for modifying the agreement.

This settlement agreement can be entered into at any time after one spouse files for divorce. A settlement agreement is binding up until the divorce, and often becomes incorporated into the final divorce decree. Couples can also make agreements through mediation that can become divorce settlement agreements.

Can You Settle on Your Own?

You and your spouse may be able to settle the terms of your divorce on your own. When a couple agrees to terms on their own, an attorney or mediator can draw up the agreement to sign. After the document is signed, it becomes binding. In some states, this will then be sent to a judge for review.

When a couple doesn’t agree on their own, the court will determine how the property and debt will be distributed, as well as how child custody will be awarded. The judge will follow the laws of the state, and try to make fair decisions based on the best interest of the children and both parties involved. Keep in mind that if your spouse hires an attorney at any point, you should also hire an attorney to make sure your best interests are being protected.

Modifying the Divorce Settlement

Some aspects of a divorce settlement can be modified. If both you and your spouse agree to a change, it can be simply modified before it becomes part of a court order. Once the agreement becomes a court order, however, changes are harder to make.

Changes to property and debt division become effective immediately and aren’t easily changed. But child support, child custody arrangements, and alimony payments can be modified after the agreement has become a court order only if they are not specified as non-modifiable, and only if specific criteria are met. If you want to change child support or child custody, for example, you must prove that your request is in the best interest of the child.

Should You Use a Divorce Lawyer?

The laws surrounding child custody, alimony, child support, and divorce are complicated, and because the results of a divorce settlement will affect you for the rest of your life, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting as much as you’re entitled to.

Choosing not to hire a divorce lawyer could mean you lose out on part of your share of the property, or that you won’t get as much time with your children as you deserve. Hiring a divorce lawyer is the smartest thing you can do.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.