If we agree on the terms of our divorce, the judge will approve it, right?

Divorce judges will usually sign off on the parties' final written agreement. This agreement is known in Illinois as the "marital settlement agreement" (or "MSA") and requires that your judge sign it and incorporate it into your final divorce decree. The judge will not just sign off on it blindly. The court will review the terms to make sure that it is not unconcionable ("shocking to the concience"). If it seems grossly unfair or too one sided, the judge may refuse to accept it or might decide to change some of the terms before he or she will sign off on it. This is especially true if one or both sides does not have an attorney in court or does not seem to fully understand not only what it says, but the implications. The MSA will also be rejected in court if it does not conform to minimum standards, that is- if it failed to address certain things which the judges are used to seeing in the agreements. For example, if there is a house but the agreement doesn't say anything about what is going to happen to the house in the divorce, this is a problem! 

Marital Settlement Agreements should be drafted by a lawyer for many reasons, one of which is to decrease the likelihood of being sent home from court still married when the judge rejected your settlement agreement.  If you and your spouse are in agreement on the terms of a divorce and think that you don't need a lawyer, consider having one to avoid problems like this.  If you are truly in agreement as to the terms, it should not be all that expensive and is bound to make things run smoother! Before deciding if you need a lawyer, be sure to get a free copy of my divorce book- available on my website for immediate download or in paperback. Best of luck to you!

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Bankruptcy, Injury, Real Estate & Mediation