Marital Dissolution Agreements Can Help Couples Stay in Control of the Terms of Their Divorce
A recently divorced friend might brag to you about how relieved she feels to kick her ex to the curb and start a new life, or a co-worker might brandish his newly minted divorce decree and joyfully exclaim that he is now free to invite his buddies over to play video games at all hours of the night without having to deal with his ex complaining about it, but you are only seeing the end result. Going through a divorce is a scary time full of uncertainty. Until the terms of your divorce have been decided, you stand to lose so much. Will the court make you sell the house you fixed up with your own hands? Will your hard-earned savings disappear into monthly spousal support checks payable to your greedy ex? Will your kids be legally obligated to spend Saturday evening with your ex, when you have been taking them bowling every Saturday evening since they first were big enough to lift a bowling ball? A marital dissolution agreement (MDA) can help you avoid some of the uncertainty. If you need help drafting an MDA, consult a Tennessee divorce attorney.
Is an MDA Right for You?
An MDA is a divorce agreement that a couple reaches through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), in other words, without going to trial. The terms of the MDA can determine all of the most common issues that need to be decided in a divorce, such as spousal support, child custody, and child support. Many couples choose to go the MDA route because it is less expensive than litigation. Also, an MDA makes many people feel like they decided how to divide their property and how to raise their children, instead of a judge deciding it for them. Just because your goal is an MDA instead of a trial, it does not automatically mean that you do not need a lawyer. Many couples seeking a divorce through MDA hire lawyers jointly or separately.
Detail of the Wunder Case
An MDA made all the difference in the Wunder v. Wunder case. When Daniel and Karen Wunder divorced in 1999, they had two preschool-aged children. Upon their divorce, they signed an MDA in which Daniel agreed to pay Karen $4,000 per month in child support and to contribute $800 per month into each child’s college savings account. The MDA explicitly stated that the amount could only be modified by a court order. Shortly after the divorce, Daniel’s employment situation changed, and he was unable to pay the full amount. He paid what he could afford, and Karen did not go to court about it. In 2012, their older son turned 18 and graduated from high school. At that time, Daniel began paying Karen only $2,000 per month; in other words, he prorated the child support amount based on the fact that only one child was still young enough to be eligible for child support payments. Karen then sued for back child support and requested that Daniel be held in contempt of court. The court ruled that Daniel owed Karen for back child support, because the amounts in the MDA were not subject to change except by involvement of the court.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need to draft an MDA, or if you have an MDA but want to modify its terms, a family lawyer can help. Contact Knoxville divorce attorney Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.