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Marital Settlement Agreements

Many divorce cases in Del Mar are resolved by a marital settlement agreement (“MSA”). Instead of submitting their case to a judge to decide at trial, parties have the option of creating their own agreement. A MSA is a written agreement of the parties, which becomes a court order. The MSA often includes provisions for child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and property division. In addition to these standard provisions, a MSA may also contain any other agreement of the parties. Because there are few strict rules regarding what parties can and cannot agree to, each MSA should be customized to fit each case. The parties can invent their own provisions, which may resolve issues of support or custody in a way that a judge is unable to do.

Each and every divorce case is different and should be treated as such. A MSA is an important document and should be drafted with care by an experienced family law attorney. Certified Specialists in Family Law have the necessary experience to draft custom and enforceable agreements. California community property law is highly complex; therefore, there are strict requirements, which must be adhered to in order to create an enforceable agreement. After a MSA is signed by both parties and filed with the court, it governs spousal support, child custody and visitation or child support issues. At any point after the MSA is submitted to the court a party may challenge its enforceability. A court may overturn the entire settlement of a divorce case if the MSA does not comply with California family law requirements.

Pursuing a MSA rather than trial can save both parties enormous amounts of time and money. Once the parties and their respective attorneys can reach an agreement on all issues to be included in the MSA, drafting it will likely cost significantly less in attorney fees than preparing for and participating in a trial. A consistently troublesome area in family law is enforcement. Once a party receives a court order in his or her favor in a family law case, the other party must still comply with that order. Many times, parties must go back to court to enforce the order. When a case is resolved with a MSA, research shows that both parties are more likely to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.