Welcome to FreeDivorce.com.
Christina: This is Christina.
Ed: This is Ed. Today, we are going to talk about how to draft your divorce judgment. There is a lot we need to explain when it comes to drafting a divorce judgment. We are going to need a series of videos to cover this topic.
Ed: The goal of the divorce process is to end up with a “Judgment of Dissolution” which we will also refer to as a “divorce judgment”. Although in this video, we are going to be talking about divorce judgments, if you are seeking a “Judgment of Legal Separation” instead of a divorce, all of the procedures we are going to talk about for a divorce judgment are essentially the same as those for a “Judgment of Legal Separation”, you will just check a few different boxes on the judgment form.
The divorce judgment will terminate your marital status and restore you to the status of being a “single” person. The divorce judgment will also include the court orders that will divide your property, divide your debts, spell out child custody arrangements, set child support, and set spousal support.
Christina: The information in this video about how to draft a divorce judgment is geared towards cases in which you were able to negotiate a settlement of all issues with your spouse. The information in this video applies to “uncontested” divorce cases, including “default with an agreement” cases. If you have a “true default” case where your spouse refused to participate in the divorce process, skip ahead to the videos that discuss “True Default Cases”. If you have a “contested” divorce case because you and your spouse were not able to reach a settlement on some or all of the issues, skip ahead to the videos that discuss “Contested Cases”.
Christina: Ed, how do you go about drafting a divorce judgment that will set forth all of the terms regarding the division of assets and debts, child custody, and support?
Ed: There are two different ways to draft your divorce judgment. One way is to use a collection of Judicial Council forms. The other way is to use a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Christina: Please explain the Judicial Council forms approach.
Ed: With this approach, you are going to use a collection of Judicial Council forms to set forth the terms of your settlement agreement. There is a Judicial Council form you can use to set forth your agreement about the division of your property and debts. There are various other Judicial Council forms you can use to set forth your agreement regarding child custody. There are a number of other Judicial Council forms you can use to set forth your agreement regarding child support. There is also a Judicial Council form to set forth your agreement regarding spousal support. If you decide to use the Judicial Council forms approach, you essentially fill out all the forms you need to describe the terms of the settlement agreement you reached with your spouse and you then attach those forms to another two page Judicial Council form known as the “Judgment” form, which is FL-180. You will then have a divorce judgment that you can submit to the court for a judge to sign.
Christina: How do I know which forms to use and where do I get these forms?
Ed: We have a series of videos on drafting your divorce judgment. In some of the following videos, we will go through each of the various Judicial Council forms you will need to fill out and attach to your divorce judgment. We will give you the names of the forms and the form numbers. We will explain how to use all the forms and create a divorce judgment. All the Judicial Council forms you will need for your divorce judgment can be found in our Court Forms Data Base. You can fill out each form and print each form for free.
Christina: What is the second way or approach to drafting a divorce judgment?
Ed: The second way to draft your divorce judgment is to use a Marital Settlement Agreement. A Marital Settlement Agreement takes the place of the various Judicial Council forms, except the two page FL-180 “Judgment” form. You will use the FL-180 judgment form with both the Judicial Council forms approach and the Marital Settlement Agreement approach.
Christina: What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Ed: A Marital Settlement Agreement is simply a written contract that spells out the terms of the settlement agreement you have made with your spouse. The Marital Settlement Agreement will contain provisions about how your assets and debts are to be divided, provisions about spousal support, and, if you have minor children, provisions about child custody and child support. The Marital Settlement Agreement will be attached to your FL-180 “Judgment” form and then you will submit your Judgment to the court for a judge to sign.
Christina: Should I use the Judicial Council forms approach or the Marital Settlement Agreement approach when I draft my divorce judgment?
Ed: Either approach will work. The main problem with the Judicial Council forms approach is that the forms make it difficult to set forth detailed provisions or unique provisions you may want included in your settlement agreement. The Judicial Council forms work well for simple cases, with simple agreements. However, if you want to do anything that is unique or somewhat detailed or complicated, the Judicial Council forms can be difficult to use. You will quickly understand the problem if you start filling out the Judicial Council forms. For example, you may want your settlement agreement to include a detailed agreement regarding the disposition of the family home, disposition of a business, spousal support, life insurance, or any number of other issues. The Judicial Council forms are not set up to easily handle these kinds of detailed agreements. You can get the job done if you use multiple typed up attachments to the Judicial Council forms, but then the process becomes cumbersome. With a Marital Settlement Agreement, you are not limited to an agreement that consists of boxes on forms that you check and small blank spaces on the forms in which you try to cram the terms of your settlement agreement. With a Marital Settlement Agreement, you can write the exact agreement you want. You can include all the unique provisions you want, in as much detail as you want, and exclude provisions you don’t want in your agreement.
Christina: If I want to use the Marital Settlement Agreement approach, how do I go about drafting a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Ed: We offer a “Marital Settlement Agreement” template for a nominal charge. If you elect to purchase this template, you start with the framework or template of a Marital Settlement Agreement consisting of introductory provisions, then the “body” of the agreement, and concluding with a host of concluding “boilerplate” legal paragraphs that lawyers frequently include in Marital Settlement Agreements. The “body” of the Marital Settlement Agreement includes various topics that parties typically want to include in their settlement agreement. These topics include the following: 1) Spousal Support; 2) Child Custody; 3) Child Support; 4) Division of Assets; 5) Division of Debts; 6) Division of Retirement Assets; 7) Division of Bank Accounts; 8) Division of Motor Vehicles; 9); Disposition of the Family Home; 10) Life Insurance provisions; 11) College Education Provisions; 12) Income Tax Provisions; 13) Attorney Fees Provisions; 14) Equalizing Payment Provisions; and 15) A collection of additional provisions on topics you may want to include in your settlement agreement.
Christina: How does the Marital Settlement Agreement template work?
Ed: The topics contained in the “body” of the Marital Settlement Agreement framework come with various options. For example, the “body” of the Marital Settlement Agreement starts with the topic of spousal support. You can click on the spousal support link in the body of the agreement and that link will take you to pages with 8 different types of spousal support agreements. The spousal support options we give you include a mutual spousal support waiver agreement; a reservation of jurisdiction agreement; a buy out agreement; a non-modifiable as to amount agreement; and a non-modifiable as to duration agreement, as well as a variety of other types of spousal support agreements. You can review the various spousal support options, select the spousal support option you want to be part of your settlement agreement, make any edits you may want, and then “cut and paste” that option into the body of your Marital Settlement Agreement template.
Christina: Can you give me another example:
Ed: Sure. In the body of the Marital Settlement Agreement Template, the next topic after spousal support is child custody. You can click on the child custody link contained in the body of the Marital Settlement Agreement Template and it will take you to a page with various types of child custody options such as sole legal custody; joint legal custody; plus various samples of different types of physical custody arrangements. The custody link also provides you with pages of numerous additional child custody provisions that you may or may not want included in your agreement. You can select the custody provisions you want and then “cut and paste” those provisions into your Marital Settlement Agreement framework. It is very easy to do.
Christina: Can I edit the provisions in the Marital Settlement Agreement?
Ed: Yes. You can edit our sample settlement agreement provisions. Delete topics you don’t want or need. You can add your own provisions to your agreement if you want the Marital Settlement Agreement to cover a topic or issue we did not address in our template. When you are finished, you will have a unique, detailed Marital Settlement Agreement that says exactly what you want it to say. You can then print that agreement and attach it to your Judgment FL-180 form and submit it to the court for a judge to sign.
Christina: Are there advantages to using the Marital Settlement Agreement template?
Ed: Yes. One example of an advantage that I will give has to do with spousal support. In the optional spousal support paragraphs, we include with our Marital Settlement Agreement template, we have a “Gavron Warning”. A Gavron Warning is a language that can be included in a divorce judgment. A Gavron warning advises the recipient of spousal support that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs and if they fail to make reasonable efforts, this failure may be one of the factors the court takes into consideration when modifying or terminating spousal support down the road. If the divorce judgment contains a Gavron warning and some years after the divorce, the recipient of support has failed to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting, then the payor of support can file a motion to reduce or terminate spousal support, including a request that the court imputes income to the recipient equal to the amount the recipient would have been earning had reasonable efforts been made. If your divorce judgment does not include a Gavron Warning, the court can decline to modify or terminate support on the theory that nobody warned the recipient that he or she is required to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting. The Judicial Council form for spousal support, which is FL-343, does not include a Gavron Warning. If you were using the Judicial Council forms approach to your divorce judgment, you would not even realize that a Gavron Warning was something you may want to include in your judgment.
Christina: If you want to use the Marital Settlement Agreement approach, click the “Templates” button on our home page and you will be able to find the “Marital Settlement Agreement” template.