If you are facing divorce, you recognize that once you file, you’ll have divorce terms to settle. You may not have thought about the fact, however, that you can actually mediate the terms of your divorce before you file, which sets you up nicely – with solid divorce terms – before you even enter the legal arena of divorce, which can save you both money and heartache in the end. If you are interested in obtaining a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA), consult with an experienced Belton divorce attorney today.
The terms that you resolve in your Texas MSA are legally enforceable. This means that, once it has been executed (or signed), your MSA goes into effect. Some divorcing couples question the validity of an MSA if it is executed prior to filing for divorce. The legal question becomes – How can a contract that is executed prior to filing for the divorce itself be enforceable? – and the Texas Supreme Court has answered the question quite succinctly.
The Court’s Ruling
The Court’s ruling is based on a Texas divorce case in which the divorcing couple mediated their divorce terms before filing for divorce and ended with an MSA. The divorce court proceeded to enter a judgment that reflected the terms outlined in the Mediated Settlement Agreement, and such a judgment reflects the final order in any divorce case. Subsequently, one of the ex-spouses involved argued that the MSA was not valid – due to it being set into motion before they had even filed for divorce. The highest court in Texas found that the MSA was legally binding (due to specific critical requirements having been met).
The Necessary Requirements
In order for an MSA to bind a couple’s divorce terms, the following requirements must be met:
The MSA includes a prominent statement of irrevocability.
The MSA is signed by both spouses (and their respective attorneys if present at the time of its signing).
The MSA is absent any of the narrow exceptions allowed by the law.
The upshot of this is that if you mediate an MSA prior to filing for divorce, and if you have an experienced divorce attorney guiding its execution (to help make sure all the legal i’s are dotted and all the legal t’s are crossed), you can execute a binding legal MSA prior to filing for divorce. While this does not mean that doing so is the right option for you, it is a viable option to discuss with your dedicated divorce attorney.