Settlement agreements give you more options.
The Domestic Relations Attorneys of Washington Bar Association recommends using a Settlement Agreement as the “best practice” in all divorces in Washington. The Settlement Agreement can divide assets and set up child visit schedules and any other customized arrangements the family needs to move forward.
Settlement Agreements help many families with the sometimes complicated logistics of filing for divorce. Many people find that filing divorce paperwork before they've worked out their finances creates new problems.
Settlement Agreements help people avoid problems caused by the court's schedule or other logistics. Divorce timing can be tricky. Many people need to finalize their arrangements either faster or slower than the court system will allow.
In some situations, people may pay more in interest to refinance or buy a new home if they rush their divorce paperwork. On the other hand, they may be unable to find a new apartment without settling their credit and income first. Banks often won't allow a refinance without a final divorce order. But then, on the other hand, the banks also often won't allow a refinance without a year's worth of income at the post-divorce levels. Tax considerations also may make it more cost-effective to delay filing a divorce petition. Each situation is different, and your needs may not fit the court's schedule at all.
To avoid losing time and money, many people use a settlement agreement to divide their finances privately and on their own terms, without having to wait for the court's timeline. The settlement agreement is effective immediately - your finances are settled and your child arrangements are fixed - even if you have to wait to file divorce for financial reasons.
Settlement Agreements are also very common in mediation, and Washington state requires almost every couple getting a divorce to mediate. Every successful mediation ends with a Settlement Agreement that takes care of the issues that would have been litigated in court.
The Settlement Agreement that you create together eventually becomes your own court order. Washington courts will enforce your Settlement Agreement (often called a Separation Contract or a CR2A for the court rule "Civil Rule 2 section A") or any other private agreement as long as certain court rules are followed. Using the rules around Settlement Agreements allows you to write your own court order.