The Importance of Representation Prior to Signing a Marital Settlement Agreement with a Maintenance Award to the Other Party

We are often contacted for assistance with post-decree matters stemming from Marital Settlement Agreements with awards for maintenance. It is typical for divorces to result in the entry of Judgments for Dissolution of Marriage with incorporated Marital Settlement Agreements. Parties enter into Marital Settlement Agreements for a number of reasons. Some parties may wish to end the marriage on amicable terms, so they decide to enter into an agreement that they believe is fair and just. Other parties may enter into agreements to avoid the cost of litigation and to speed up the divorce process. Although time and money are factors to be considered when discussing settlement options during the dissolution process, it is highly recommended that both parties have adequate representation prior to signing a Martial Settlement Agreement, especially when an agreement contains an award for maintenance. Unfortunately, many people enter into agreements without considering the long-term effects it will have on their finances, as they believe they can later modify the terms. Pursuant to 750 ILCS 5/510, of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, maintenance may only be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. The Court determines whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, by considering several factors, which can be found in 750 ILCS 5/504 and 750 ILCS 5/510. One example of a potential change in circumstances could be a change in the employment status of either party. However, that change must have been in good faith. A Court will only modify a maintenance award if they determine a modification would be just and equitable based on the change in circumstances. It is unlikely for a Court to enter a Judgment, with an incorporated Marital Settlement Agreement, that the Court finds to be unconscionable. Therefore, it is very important that you seek representation prior to entering into any agreement, as a later modification is not guaranteed.

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