Marital Settlement Agreement

Hossein Berenji, Feb 01, 2021

During a divorce process or afterward, spouses may enter a contract to resolve all of their divorce-related issues. This contract, called a marital settlement agreement, can be brought about after mediation or through negotiations between the spouses’ attorneys.

What Issues are Resolved in a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Spouses can resolve all marriage-related issues in a marital settlement agreement. Some issues that can be covered in a marital settlement agreement include:

  • Parenting time and responsibility for children
  • Financial support for children’s expenses
  • Maintenance of the marital lifestyle for both spouses
  • Property division

These can be negotiated separately or together, where each party compromises on a different issue to reach an agreement on the whole. Some parents, for example, consider the impacts of one issue on another.

Are Custody Agreements Between Parents Limited?

Parents can generally agree on the child custody arrangement they believe is suitable for their family. The preferred custody arrangement in California is joint custody, but there are many types of custody orders.

Each family has different needs. However, a court will consider the parents’ agreement in light of the child’s needs. California courts approve child custody agreements that are in the best interest of the child. A court will not approve an agreement that is not in the child’s best interest.

Can a Marital Settlement Agreement Address Financial Support?

Spouses, especially those involved in a high net-worth divorce, may wish to maintain the privacy of their financial situation. A marital settlement agreement allows for this privacy while protecting the financial stability of the family.

Courts will approve agreements for child support based on California’s child support guideline. Courts, and parents, can sometimes land on an amount that is different from the guideline award, but there must be a good reason to do so. An experienced California family law attorney can help you understand when it is appropriate to deviate from the guideline .

Marital settlement agreements can also address spousal support. California law allows for two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. Temporary support is paid after a case is filed but before the judgment of divorce is entered, while permanent spousal support (if awarded) begins after the divorce is finalized.

Is a Marital Settlement Agreement a Judgment of the Court?

Once the agreement is reached, a detail-oriented family law attorney will prepare the marital settlement agreement. The marital settlement agreement will list, in detail, the parties’ agreements about each issue involved.

Next, each party, and their attorney, has a chance to review a draft of the document. If needed, changes can be made. Then both parties and their attorneys will sign the document.

After it is signed, it will be filed with the court. The court will approve or adopt the agreement and it will become a formal court judgment.

Why Choose a Marital Settlement Agreement?

One reason divorcing spouses choose marital settlement agreements is to help them maintain an upbeat and functional relationship. Litigation sets parties up as adversaries. Agreements allow parties to remain cordial.

Another reason to choose a marital settlement agreement is to save on the expense of litigation. Attorney fees in family law matters can vary widely based on how cooperative the other side is, whether the parties agree to full disclosure of financial matters, whether expert testimony is needed, and many more factors.

Parties who want to resolve their case quickly may benefit from a marital settlement agreement. Unlike litigation, in which a case can be broken up into multiple court hearings over several months, marital settlement agreements can be prepared as quickly as parties can come together.