By Gerri Elder
During a divorce, spouses usually negotiate through divorce lawyers or in divorce mediation. Every attempt is usually made to have the parties come to a divorce settlement about marital issues such as debts, assets and child custody, but before there is a preliminary agreement, the couple and the issues may remain in limbo.
When a couple separates, there is no divorce court order detailing who gets property, pays debts, has child custody and pays child support. In many cases the parties can come to a temporary agreement while the details are worked out, but in other cases, a separation can cause financial devastation, bankruptcy and further fighting over the children. These fights can often escalate to incidents of domestic violence.
After you make sure you and your family members are safe, you may want to speak with a divorce lawyer before separating from your spouse. While meeting with a lawyer, you can ask questions about the divorce laws in your state and how you can protect your rights and personal safety.
Before you and your spouse make any agreements among yourselves, you should know what impact it might have on your divorce case. An informal divorce settlement cannot be legally enforced, but your actions may set a precedent in the case. If your spouse agrees to pay alimony or child support before a divorce court order is in place but does not make the payments, there may be little recourse because only divorce court support orders are legally enforceable.
All agreements should be reviewed by a lawyer before considered final. A divorce lawyer who is familiar with divorce settlements can advise you as to what information should be included in the agreement, how it should be worded, and what types of things should never be included in a divorce settlement agreement.
A divorce lawyer may be able to request an emergency hearing to establish a temporary order for custody, child support or to protect marital assets. If domestic violence or abuse is an issue, your lawyer may also file for a temporary restraining order to keep your spouse away from you while things cool down.
If and when the parties reach a divorce settlement, the agreement is generally reviewed by the divorce lawyers for each party, signed by the parties and submitted to the divorce court for approval. If approved, the divorce settlement then becomes a valid and enforceable order of the court.