What is a Family Law Settlement?
A guide by the Family Law Appellate Attorneys at the Levoritz Law Firm

You may wonder about an alternative to traditional divorce proceedings. One alternative to a dragged-out family law court case is a family law settlement in New York State. Read on to learn more about family law settlements, the pros and cons of a settlement versus a Judge hearing your divorce case, and the limited circumstances you can set aside a family law settlement.

What is a Family Law Settlement?

A family law settlement is when you and your future ex-spouse can agree to the terms of your divorce in a settlement proceeding. Payment is a legally binding contract where you and your ex-spouse agree to all the words you discuss within the settlement agreement. As a settlement is a legally binding contract, this means that all of the terms within are legally enforceable and binding. This means that nothing in the settlement agreement can go against the family law rules and regulations set forth by New York State.

According to the New York Family Courts website, “The husband and wife must be living separate and apart for a period of at least one year after signing a separation agreement to use it for a divorce.” However, this guidance from the New York State courts should not be construed to mean that LGBTQ+ individuals can not also create a valid and enforceable family law settlement.

Settlement agreements are best for two parties who are relatively amicable and would instead reach a solution by themselves with the assistance of their respective attorneys rather than create a matter in court and have the Judge decide on the merits of the issues.

What can you agree to in a Family Law Settlement?

The issues in a marital settlement that are eligible to be included are alimony or spousal support, child custody issues, religious agreements of the children, including holiday schedules, camps, and schools, and property distribution of the property acquired during the course of the marriage.

You can settle property distribution issues such as which spouse gets the house, which spouse gets certain cars or other property, and more oversized personal property items. You can also specify your child custody arrangements between the two parents. You can also spell out the requirements of child support owed to the custodial spouse, if any, together during the settlement meeting and enact these requirements in the family law agreement.

What do New York Courts state about Family Law Settlements?

New York State Law explains that family law settlements are “ agreements [that are] lawful when made, will be enforced like other agreements unless impeached or challenged for some cause recognized by law.”

Further, the New York Courts even go so far as to say that family law settlements are encouraged so that the two parties can settle their individual differences privately and take particular time and attention to them as much as possible to rectify and enact.

Suppose you ever have questions about a potential outcome of a family law settlement or a family law appeal. In that case, you can contact knowledgeable and experienced Family Law attorneys at the Levoritz law firm at (718) 942-4004 for a free consultation.

What are the Pros and Cons of settling a Family Law Matter?

The pros of settling a family law matter with the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney include the following:

● It may be quicker, easier, and calmer to settle your divorce with the tool of a family law settlement if you can talk with your ex-spouse about the family law matters that matter the most to you as an individual.
● If your family structure is unique, this could be a better setting to assist you in deciding on how to split custody and child support.
● It saves a lot of money not having to go through the New York family court system to decide on issues of your divorce.
● It saves you time not waiting for a court appointment or a court date to determine your divorce arrangements. Family law settlements are a much quicker process than waiting on a Judge’s opinion and renderings on your divorce matter.
● It is possible that by working together to figure out a fair and equitable settlement of your marriage, your relationship with your ex-spouse could become repaired enough to speak amicably and truthfully about your divorce.

The negative aspects or cons of settling a family law matter with the assistance of an attorney include the following:

● Suppose you are not amicable as a divorcing couple. In that case, it may be next to impossible to agree to terms together without the assistance of the Judge’s ruling on your specific issues.
● Suppose you have a lot of real or personal property. In that case, you may want the assistance of a Judge in deciding on matters instead of attempting to rectify the property split with only your individual family law attorneys.
● The biggest con when discussing family law settlements is that you and your ex-spouse do not get to have your day in court, which some ex-spouses desire to figure out the details of your divorce more formally.

Can you set aside a Family Law Settlement?

New York Law allows an individual to challenge a settlement that you and your ex-spouse created together with the assistance of attorneys. A family law settlement, amongst other requirements, must be fair and reasonable to both parties. If you find a reason for the settlement after the fact not to be fair based on fraud, coercion, or other reasons, you can ask the New York Courts to set aside your family law settlement in New York court.

However, even if it is possible for a family law settlement to be set aside, the New York courts purposefully make it difficult. The New York courts stated under the Heinemann v. Heinemann case that “Marital settlement agreements are judicially favored and are not to be easily set aside” and that “'[A] stipulation of settlement entered into by parties to a divorce proceeding that is fair on its face will be enforced according to its terms unless there is proof of fraud, duress, overreaching, or unconscionability.” Therefore, it is vital that when you sign and finalize your family law settlement in New York state, you will want the assistance of an attorney in drafting and crafting the agreement so that the terms are agreeable to both parties.

A knowledgeable and experienced appellate attorney can answer all your questions about a potential family law appeal, prepare you to appeal the decision, and ensure you meet all of the appeal deadlines. Contact the Levoritz Law Firm today at (718) 942-4004 for your free consultation or through our online form to arrange a consultation.

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