Disclaimer! The contents of this video and on this webpage provides a general overview.  The material in this video and on this webpage are for educational purposes only, is not tailored to address your specific needs, and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with an attorney to obtain legal advice about your divorce. 

California Marital Settlement Agreement

There are a number of documents to prepare when going through a divorce. One of the most important elements of this process is the martial settlement agreement, also known as a property settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is a document that specifically lays out each party’s rights relating to property. This includes alimony, the division of assets and debts, and child custody if children are involved. In states like California, the courts tend to favor settlement over litigation. A settlement would more than likely result in lower attorney costs.

A marital settlement agreement (MSA) is legally binding, therefore you want to be certain that every single issue relevant to your divorce is addressed.

Discuss the MSA with Your Partner

The first step in the process of creating a marital settlement agreement is a discussion with your partner or spouse. You will have to consider child custody and visitation terms if you have children that are minors. Then, you will have to review all of the types of property that the two of you own. This can include community property, quasi-community property, and separate property.

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When you acquired the property determines whether such property is categorized as community, quasi-community, or separate. For instance, if the property was obtained prior to the marriage, it is considered to be separate property. Community property includes anything that was obtained during the marriage, while quasi-community property is any property that you acquired while living outside of the state of California.

List All Issues to be Addressed in your MSA

In addition to issues of property and custody, you will have to evaluate costs for spousal support or alimony, health insurance, pensions, any outstanding or future tax issues, and other debts. When considering these items, be certain to remember that there are often special rules involved regarding health insurance, life insurance, and pensions. As a result, you will need to be sure to inform any entities related to these items of the terms of the marital settlement agreement after the divorce has occurred.

Attach or Incorporate the MSA into Divorce Decree

When you are finished drafting the marital settlement agreement and all of the parties agree the issues, it is important to have the document attached or incorporated to your divorce decree. Doing so allows for the court to enforce the agreement and even place parties in contempt of court if they violate the terms of the agreement. Should you choose not to attach or incorporate your agreement into the divorce decree, if either party violates the agreement, the other party will have to sue them to enforce the contract.

As a divorce is a major life decision, the terms of the martial settlement agreement can last for a number of years. That is one of the reasons that you should try to get the terms of your agreement right in the first place. While it is possible for an amendment or modification to be made, this will have to be done with agreement by all of the parties.

If the other party has failed to respond to the divorce petition, you will use judicial forms to finalize your divorce. If the party files a response and you are in agreement on the issues of your divorce, create a marital settlement agreement to incorporate into the final judgment.

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California Divorce Quick Start Guide by Kym Morris, Esq.
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