A Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge will approve a parties’ agreement so long as it is “fair” and “reasonable”. However, many family law litigants ask, “What does Fair and Reasonable mean”? Does that mean fair to both parties? Does there need to be some kind of consideration given if one party gives up certain rights? What if a party gives the other party additional property instead of having to pay spousal support, is that fair? What does “reasonable” mean?
The Court of Appeal answered this question and set out the list of factors for making the determination of whether a divorce agreement is fair and reasonable:
- Nature and substance of the argument that the party seeking to invalidate the agreement makes;
- Consideration of the financial provisions as a whole;
- Review the context of how the negotiations took place;
- Consideration of the complexity of the issues involved in the dissolution of marriage case;
- Review of the background and knowledge of the parties;
- Review of the experience and abilities of the parties’ respective attorneys;
- Consideration of whether experts assisted either or both parties in reaching their agreement; and
- Reviewing the agreement in light of the mandatory statutory factors for property division and spousal support under M.G.L.A. c. 208, Sec. 34.
If support of children is part of the agreement, the court will also look at the mandatory child support guidelines.
At the final court hearing the judge will ask each party several questions to ensure the agreement is fair and reasonable. If the judge is satisfied with the answers, they will grant the divorce.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce or need a second opinion to review a separation agreement, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.