When you resolve your divorce through private negotiations, mediation or a collaborative method, the process culminates with the execution of a marital settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is a binding legal contact that specifies the terms of your divorce (i.e. regarding property division, custody and financial support), and each couple’s agreement should be custom-tailored to their unique family and financial circumstances.
In California, marital settlement agreements are subject to court approval. While family court judges will generally defer to the outcome of spouses’ negotiations when both parties are represented by legal counsel, there are a number of specific issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure that your marital settlement agreement will become part of your final divorce order. Our Orange County spousal support lawyer notes the items below as some of the most important issues to consider:
1. The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard
In a divorce involving minor children, the parents’ decisions regarding custody and visitation must reflect their children’s best interests. In child custody matters, the California courts are guided by the “best interests of the child” standard; and, in order to have their marital settlement agreements approved, divorcing parents must adhere to this standard as well.
2. California’s Child Support Guidelines
While divorcing spouses have a significant degree of flexibility when it comes to establishing spousal support (“alimony”), the same cannot be said when it comes to calculating child support. In order to obtain court approval for a marital settlement agreement, divorcing parents must ensure that the terms of their agreement regarding child support adhere to California’s child support guidelines.
3. Equitable Division of Assets and Debts
California law requires divorcing spouses to divide their assets and debts according to what is “just and right.” While this can mean different things under different circumstances, if the terms of a property settlement appear to be grossly inequitable, they could raise questions that the spouses will need to be prepared to answer.
4. Legal Conditions for Eligibility
In most cases, in order to file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must have lived in California for the prior six months, and he or she must have lived in his or her current county of residence or 90 days. The law includes special provisions for special circumstances (i.e. if one spouse has lived outside of California for multiple years or one or both spouses are in the military), and in order to obtain court approval for a marital settlement agreement, the spouses will need to be able to demonstrate that they meet the legal conditions for eligibility.
5. Independent Legal Representation
Finally, although not legally required, if one spouse does not have legal representation during the divorce process, the judge reviewing the spouses’ marital settlement agreement is likely to examine the agreement with greater scrutiny. Divorcing spouses can (and should) include provisions in their agreement acknowledging that they have each received independent legal representation, and doing so can help streamline the finalization of their divorce.
Contact Our Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer Today
Our family lawyers provide experienced legal representation for divorcing spouses in Orange County. If you are considering a divorce and would like more information about the provisions to include in your marital settlement agreement, you can call 949-474-0800 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.