Divorcing During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know about Marital Settlement Agreements


A Marital Settlement Agreement, also known as a Marital Separation Agreement, is a written legal agreement that settles all marital issues and which allows the parties to move forward with an Uncontested Divorce Hearing. In other words, it is a legal contract that outlines the terms of the divorce. Marital issues include everything from child custody, visitation, alimony, and the division of marital property. Marital issues can even extend into making decisions about healthcare, life insurance, pets, shared debts, specific household items, investments, businesses, and legal fees.


When Should I Consider a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Marital Settlement Agreements allow spouses to move forward with an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is obtained when both spouses agree on all issues, without the need for litigation. In general, an uncontested divorce based upon a signed agreement that is incorporated, but not merged, is the best result for a divorcing couple. It allows the parties to control the outcome of their divorce, it is less expensive than litigation, and it avoids the emotional pain of a trial. 

Marital Settlement Agreements are also a great option for spouses that want to get a divorce during the pandemic. At the time of this blog being posted, in most of the jurisdictions in Maryland, the courts are not hearing multi-day contested divorce trials. The number of cases that have been postponed has created a tremendous backlog. Many couples who are seeking a divorce are seeing lengthy delays. If you and your spouse can compromise and reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce, you will have the opportunity to finalize your divorce much quicker than if you wait for a trial. Uncontested Divorce Hearings are still being scheduled and, unlike multi-day trials, can easily be held remotely.


Why Should I Consider a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Marital Settlement Agreements can save you time and money. Instead of waiting to go to court to litigate, you can settle all of your marital issues at any time and without having to pay the legal fees that are associated with a multi-day trial. In addition, you can finalize your divorce quickly, even during the pandemic, by appearing for a remote Uncontested Divorce Hearing.  


What is the Process of a Marital Settlement Agreement?

  1. Negotiation. You and your spouse, or the attorneys that you and your spouse hire to represent you, will discuss the terms of the agreement. Typically, one party presents a list of proposed terms, and the parties work on reaching an agreement on each term until all terms are resolved. Sometimes a mediator is brought in to assist in reaching an agreement on all terms.   
  2. Draft. After an agreement is reached as to all terms, one attorney will prepare a draft Marital Settlement Agreement and send it to the other attorney for review. There may be some edits to the specific language or revisions to certain terms to ensure that all necessary details are contained within the agreement. Once all parties and counsel agree upon the language, the agreement is signed by the parties, and their signatures are notarized.   
  3. Complaint. Soon after the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed, one party will file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce with the appropriate Circuit Court and attach a copy of the agreement. The other party will file an Answer.
  4. Uncontested Divorce Hearing. The moving party must appear with counsel for an Uncontested Divorce Hearing, at which time a Judge or a Magistrate will accept the agreement and hear testimony regarding the ground for divorce. Uncontested Divorce Hearings are being held remotely in all jurisdictions.  The various jurisdictions are using different remote platforms, but your lawyer will receive a link, which will be forwarded to you. The non-moving party and his or her counsel has the right to be present at the Uncontested Divorce Hearing, but their presence is not required. If the case involved children, the court must be presented with a copy of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. If the parties are seeking to deviate from the guidelines, they must explain the reason for the deviation. Remember that anything you include in your agreement will be enforceable by the court once it is incorporated, but not merged, into a Judgment of Absolute Divorce.
  5. Follow up. Once your Marital Settlement Agreement is court-approved, you and your ex-spouse must follow the terms as laid out in the agreement. You must also review the terms carefully to ensure you understand your obligations moving forward. For instance, if there is an agreement to divide retirement assets, a separate order may be required to be submitted to the court. Your Marital Settlement Agreement becomes a part of a court order. If one person refuses to comply with the terms of the agreement, there may be legal consequences for that failure.

If you have questions about divorcing during the pandemic, please contact Turnbull, Nicholson & Sanders, P.A. at (410) 339-4100 or Our team of family law attorneys is here to help guide you.


Related Post: Divorcing During the Pandemic When You Can’t Get Into Court

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