Virginia Property Settlement Agreements
Virginia Property Settlement Agreements (“PSA”), also called Separation Agreements, are typically omnibus, formal legal documents drawn to address the major tenants of an approaching divorce proceeding. Ideally, these post-marital agreements, tackle all rights and obligations arising from the parties’ marriage to one another. Those rights include, among other things, custody and visitation, child and spousal support and property division.
Married parties are free to contractually agree upon a resolution of their marital obligations at any time. Their agreement need not be formal; a “back-of-the-napkin” agreement may prove just as enforceable as a professionally drafted agreement. To be clear, however, PSAs are contracts and the same rules generally applicable to contracts apply to determine whether a PSA is valid. In most cases, where an agreement is complete on its face and unambiguous in its terms, a court will uphold it unless fraud, duress or unconscionability exists.
The vast majority of divorce cases resolve with the signing of a PSA. Why?
- The parties have the clearest sense of why their relationship ended and may best recognize how to serve not only their individual interests, but also the interests of their children.
- The parties may appreciate how marital property was acquired or maintained and have equitable notions about how that property should be divided, notwithstanding what the law may provide.
- Compromise on both sides as directed by the parties (as opposed to a court) may yield an agreement both parties are more likely to honor. Keep in mind that often the best agreements are those where neither party is particularly happy.
- PSAs offer the prospect of a quick and cost-effective resolution to marital discord, particularly when compared with contested litigation.
- PSAs can be incorporated into divorce decrees, which allows a court to enforce them by way of its contempt power.
- PSAs allow the parties to reach agreements beyond what a court might be willing to address during litigation such as continuation of spousal and child support beyond statutory guidelines or inclusion of detailed visitation, communication and conduct guidelines.
Though every agreement is separate and distinct, attorney written agreements often incorporate scads of boilerplate provisions that near-universally apply. At Curran|Moher,P.C., our firm PSA language is quite lengthy; it is the product of continuous optimization and revision, made over the course of several decades of family law practice. Over the weeks to come, I will address specific provisions that you might consider including in your PSA. If you have questions about the drafting of a property settlement agreement, please feel free to drop me a line.
Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran|Moher P.C. – firstname.lastname@example.org – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020