Divorce is emotional enough without having to sort through complex legal terms, of which there are many in common divorce proceedings. It’s easy to get confused by court terms and conditions, should your case actually go to court. But not all divorces need to get hung up in lengthy courtroom struggles. If you’ve agreed to divorce, you might consider the benefits of a marital separation agreement.
Understanding the MSA document
The MSA is a foundational document to establish the terms of your divorce. It helps you and your spouse identify how you’ll divide your shared property and to organize a system for child support, custody and visitation. As you and your spouse separate, the MSA will prove to be a guiding document that explains your relationship after your marriage is legally dissolved.
Most MSAs are applicable to couples with or without children and are seen as efficient means of conflict resolution. They are also useful for couples to set the terms of their divorce in writing, rather than leaving those terms to loose or legally ineffective verbal agreements.
An MSA also lays out plans to address your shared debts. It’s not a required document, but it’s helpful in Illinois, Missouri, and other states to lay out your agreements in writing. The Illinois Bar Association helps families understand MSAs and other legal terms in its family law legal guide, and the Missouri Bar Association provides details about the state's family law legal terms in its Family Law Resource Guide.
MSAs can also help couples avoid court. In many cases, judges honor MSA agreements if they are written effectively and if they adequately cover the material aspects of the pending divorce.
Avoiding the stress of divorce
Think of the MSA as a way you and your spouse can prove to the court that you’ve made an agreement on major issues, and that you’re moving forward under a new covenant. According to Forbes magazine, the lack of a formal legal agreement to define the terms of your divorce "can be a recipe for financial disaster."
An MSA will expedite your case so you can both move on with your lives and is effective in listing items in terms of ownership and responsibility. Sometimes, the division of assets or debts can lead to inconveniences. One party could end up owing more money based on the specifics of outstanding bills or loans that you once shared responsibility for.
The separation of vehicles, or the award of the sole household vehicle, might leave one of you without transportation for a brief spell. If your partner is awarded the sole vehicle in question and you’re worried about how you’re going to get to work, do not stress out. There are many great programs available, like the cancel anytime lease program from DriveTime that will help get you there. After the happiness you’ve shared together and the children you’ve raised, you want to avoid spending needless time fighting over something like the family car.
You’ve made the tough decision to move on with your lives. The worst is past. Now you can both look toward the future. Documents like an MSA can help you chart the beginning of a new chapter of a new life. An MSA can make that transition as seamless as possible for both you and the people with whom you’ve shared so much in the past.