A Marital Settlement Agreement (or “MSA”) is essentially a contract between a divorced couple that memorializes the division of property and debt. The document also allows the parties to include almost anything they desire in the agreement, such as who will provide support for adult children. The MSA is usually incorporated into the final judgment and signed by the judge, giving the contract the same effect of a court order.
Due to the finality and force of an MSA that has gone before the judge, promises made in the agreement should be made very carefully and taken very seriously. If you agree to something in your MSA, you must be prepared to follow through. One New Jersey father* learned that the hard way and will be required to provide fifty percent of the support his daughter needs at Cornell law school, per the MSA he signed with his ex-wife.
The father argued that although he agreed to help his daughter with her higher-education costs, he wanted to have a say in where she studied and where she lived. Not surprisingly, he wished her to choose a less-expensive alternative, but she chose Cornell. As of today, Cornell law school’s cost of attendance is around $80,000.
In the end, this father must pay about $120,000 for half of his daughter’s legal education because the agreement did not include typical language that would have given father a say in his daughter’s educational decisions. MSA’s are serious business; this situation is one example why it pays to have a great attorney looking out for your interests.
If you need guidance creating your MSA or are interested in creating a prenuptial agreement, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). Our attorneys have decades of experience handling MSA’s and complex family law proceedings, and happily offer a free consultation to new clients.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*“Dad must pay half of his daughter’s law school expenses at Cornell, appeals court says,” via ABA Journal: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/dad_must_pay_half_of_his_daughters_law_school_expenses_at_cornell_appeals_c