Marital Settlement Divorces in Los Angeles
The goal in most divorce and family law cases is to reach an agreement with the opposing side to resolve a case in a quick and efficient manner. When parties agree to terms to settle their case, their agreement is turned into a writing and is a contract, which will be filed with the court and become a court order.
The terms of a divorce or other family law contract are extremely important, and probably one of the most important documents a party to a Los Angeles family court case will ever sign.
Marital Settlement Agreements (MSAs), Stipulations and Settlement in California Family Law
By far the best way to resolve a divorce, paternity, legal separation, annulment, post-judgment modification, or other family law case is to resole all the issues by agreement with the other party. Reaching settlement at the early stages of a case provides for a prompt resolution at a much cheaper cost. The peace of mind that accompanies a complete settlement of a divorce cannot be valued. When going through a divorce or family law matter it is crucial to have a qualified, experienced attorney handling your paperwork. All settlement agreements are not created equally and if done incorrectly or without the necessary detail, your agreement could end up costing you significant money or hassle in the future.
This page describes the types of agreements that may be involved in a divorce or other family law case in Los Angeles.
Marital Settlement Agreements
Martial Settlement Agreements, or MSAs, are the documents used to resolve divorce and legal separation cases. These settlement agreements can be “long” form or in “short” form depending on the complexity of a given case. Typically, MSAs are at least 30 pages long and provide all these functions:
- Provide agreements for child custody and parenting time
- Set child support amounts
- Provide other “form” agreement provisions for children including which party gets the dependency exemption, how extracurricular activities are to be paid, how the parties share childcare and unreimbursed medical expenses, how the parties share holidays with the children, and so forth
- Divide community property
- Confirm each party’s separate property
- Provide for the basis of the dissolution (i.e. irretrievable breakdown, etc.)
- Identify agreements for filing taxes either jointly or separately
- Divide each party’s obligations to pay certain debts
- Provide for agreements relating to spousal support (alimony)
MSAs should be very detailed because the terms of this agreement have significant legal effects on the parties. If the agreement is too vague or not drafted well, it can leave parties in a position of having to filing motions and litigating issues that should have been clearly specified in their MSA.
Stipulated judgments are typically a short form settlement agreement that resolves a divorce or legal separation case. These documents are almost always used to resolve an annulment action. Stipulated judgments may resolve all of the issues identified above, or other issues the parties wish to include in their settlement. Stipulated judgments may also refer to oral agreements that are made “on the record”, which means in open court. Stipulated judgments that occur in open court can be enforced just like a stipulated judgment or MSA that is in writing, signed by the parties. When parties resolve their entire case on the record in open court, the lawyers and/or judge will ask the parties to listen carefully to the terms of the agreement. The terms are then read on the record and then the parties are asked questions about whether they understand the terms, had sufficient time to consider the agreements, and wish to the bound by the agreements as a court order.
CCP 664.6 Agreements
The California Code of Civil Procedure 664.6 is a code section that is used to either identify that the parties have an agreement to resolve all the issues in their case, or to substantiate a motion to enforce the terms of an agreement made between parties in a divorce or other family law case. Here is an example: suppose parties attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference in L.A. and during that conference the parties reach a complete agreement to resolve all issues in their case. Then they read their agreements onto the record and the court orders one of the attorneys to draft the judgment paperwork. After the documents are drafted, one party then decided they don’t like the agreement and refuses to sign off on the paperwork. In these types of cases, the other party may file a “664.6 motion” to request the court enter a formal judgment on the stipulated terms without having to have the other party sign. The court will grant this motion without a doubt so long as the record is clear. Once parties reach an agreement in open court, it is a final agreement.
Stipulation and Orders
Stipulation and Orders are commonly used to resolve any family law dispute that is pending before the court. A stipulation and order can be drafted to resolve any temporary issue (such as temporary custody, temporary alimony, etc.) or any post-judgment issue. With these documents, on party’s attorney drafts the document, all parties and lawyers sign, and the document is then filed with the court. The judge will review the document and apply his or her signature if the stipulation does not violate public policy (meaning that parties are usually free to agree on whatever they want).
What Type of Language is Included in a Divorce Agreement?
There are many topics that are addressed in a divorce agreement, including many “form” contract paragraphs (like you would see in a mortgage document for example) that are extremely important. A divorce agreement, or MSA, will contain language about the parties, statistical information, general terms regarding their agreement including what rights each party waives, what warranties are given by each party, how information was exchanged leading up to the execution of the agreement, language regarding children, child support, alimony, health insurance, property division, how the parties will file taxes, and so forth.
Agreements in family law cases can be extremely complex. You need to have a qualified attorney help you, or you could face drastic consequences. A minor error in a Marital Settlement Agreement or other similar document could cause a lot of confusion that only litigation will resolve. Don’t get caught in that mess. Call our office today for a consultation or send us an email.