Although many divorce and family law cases begin as the result of contentious and emotionally charged circumstances, the majority of domestic relations issues are eventually resolved by written agreement. Not only do families benefit from the resolution of issues through settlement, but the laws and public policy of Virginia favor the use of settlement agreements to resolve legal disputes.

Agreements, whether memorialized as private contracts between the parties or as consent orders issued by a judge, are permitted on almost all family law issues, from property distribution to child custody. The following are examples of some of the more commonly known and most often utilized family law agreements.

Prenuptial Agreement. Some couples choose to enter into an agreement prior to their marriage, with the goal of preemptively resolving a number of issues that may arise as the result of future death or divorce. Prenuptial agreements are commonly used when one or both parties have children from a prior marriage, or when one or both parties have substantial assets that they wish to protect from otherwise applicable incidents and consequences of their pending marriage.

Agreement to Separate. Typically, divorcing spouses are hesitant to voluntarily move from the marital home, fearing that if they do so, they will be accused of deserting the marriage. As this issue often arises at an early point in the divorce process, the parties may not yet be ready to resolve all property, support, and/or child-related issues by agreement, despite their mutual willingness to break off marital cohabitation. Under those circumstances, parties may enter into a written agreement to separate, and can include as few or as many additional terms regarding the separation as can be agreed upon.

Property Settlement Agreement. Though called by several different names, a property settlement agreement is a written document that typically resolves the division of assets and debts, spousal support, custody and visitation, child support, attorney’s fees, future claims resulting from the marriage, and any ancillary issues that need to be addressed in the dissolution of the marital partnership. This agreement is usually the culmination and product of attorney negotiations, mediation, or collaborative law. Once parties have entered into a comprehensive property settlement agreement, the remaining path to official divorce consists merely of formal court filings and concluding processes.

Regardless of the particular type of agreement you seek, it is important to understand that written and properly executed agreements, provided they are entered into for lawful purposes and not procured by fraud or duress, constitute binding contracts with real and significant consequences to the parties involved. Steve Raynor is able to provide you with timely and competent advice and expert guidance in the drafting and execution of these and other divorce and family law agreements. Contact us to set up an appointment to discuss any divorce or family law matter you have.

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