Whenever possible, ending a marriage amicably is preferred to divorce litigation. Working with your spouse to develop a marital settlement agreement can be the best way to save time and money while achieving the result you desire in your divorce case.
If you want to explore divorce settlement agreements further, contact Sachdev Legal Group, APC to speak with an experienced San Diego marital settlement agreement lawyer.
We offer a free consultation, so call our law office today.
How Can a San Diego Family Law Attorney Help Me With a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Marital settlement agreements are legally binding once they are drafted and executed. The court may not incorporate the order into its final divorce decree. However, the terms of the written agreement that do not contradict a court order can be binding in civil court.
As with any legal document, it is best to seek the advice of a trained, experienced lawyer before you enter the agreement. Some of the ways that a San Diego family lawyer helps you include:
You may have a checklist for your marital settlement agreement that you have decided is everything you need or desire in an agreement. However, it is easy to overlook items when you are emotionally involved in a situation. It is also difficult to have perspective.
A San Diego marital agreement lawyer provides the perspective you need to ensure that you are making choices that are genuinely in your best interest. You must focus on your future as well as the present situation. Without a certain amount of perspective, it can be easy to become bogged down in the present and forget about your future.
Agreement vs. Litigation
Our marital settlement agreement attorney in San Diego carefully analyzes your situation to help you determine if a settlement agreement might be possible. We weigh the pros and cons of a marital settlement agreement with you to help you make the best decision possible for you and your children.
Marital settlement agreements are not always an option in every case. If spouses cannot be in the same room together, it can be challenging to arrive at an agreement that both parties approve. Also, if a spouse is seeking revenge through the divorce proceeding, a marital settlement agreement is not possible.
It is strongly advised that both parties have separate legal counsel when negotiating and drafting a marital settlement agreement. A San Diego divorce lawyer can only represent the best interests of one client. Therefore, each spouse needs an attorney to protect their rights throughout the entire process.
However, during the process, each of the attorneys can help facilitate productive negotiations. If the parties become “stuck” on an issue, the attorneys may provide several alternatives to reach an agreement. Also, attorneys advise their clients on the potential outcomes if the matter goes to trial, which can help the spouses decide if a settlement is the best option.
Knows the Law and the Process
A San Diego marital settlement agreement lawyer understands the California divorce laws that apply to settlements like yours. The lawyer also understands the correct process for drafting and executing the document, as well as filing it with the court for approval.
Marital settlement agreements are not required to be incorporated into a final divorce order. However, many couples have their agreements become part of the divorce order in case there are future problems that may require court action to enforce the agreement. Having a lawyer with an extensive understanding of divorce laws ensures that you cover all issues and matters that are necessary to protect yourself now and after the divorce is final.
What Types of Issues are Covered by a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A marital settlement agreement can cover any of the matters related to divorce. The matters that need to be settled depends on the individual case. Therefore, some of the following areas may not apply to you and your spouse.
Division of Property and Debts
California is a community property state. All property acquired during the marriage is generally considered community property. Each spouse is entitled to one-half of the community property, regardless of how the property is titled.
However, couples may disagree about whether some property is community property or separate property. Separate property is an asset acquired before the marriage or during the marriage through inheritance or gift.
Through a marital settlement agreement, the couple can negotiate a division of property and debt that benefits both parties. For example, a spouse may be willing to abandon any interest in property that is important to the other spouse in exchange for a larger share in another asset.
Issues also arise regarding separate property that has been commingled with community property. Negotiation may produce a better outcome for both parties rather than allowing a judge to make that determination.
Child Custody and Visitation
Unless a parent is unfit, the courts view parents as having equal rights to their children. It is presumed that a child benefits from ongoing and frequent contact with each of his or her parents. Therefore, parents are encouraged to develop parenting plans that allow both parents to remain active in their child’s life.
Marital settlement agreements can incorporate a custody and visitation plan. However, the plan is subject to court approval.
The judge must weigh the agreement against the child’s best interest. If any terms of the agreement are not in the child’s best interest, the judge requires the parents to modify the terms of the agreement until the judge finds that the parenting plan is in the child’s best interest.
Each parent is expected to provide for the financial support of their child, even after the parents are divorced. California uses a standard formula to calculate the base for child support. The parties cannot agree to pay less than their share of child support through a marital settlement agreement.
The parents can agree on how to divide expenses that are not addressed in the child support guidelines. They may also agree to pay additional amounts for specific expenses or needs.
California courts use certain factors to determine whether spousal support is warranted. If spousal support is justified, the court uses other factors to determine the duration and amount of spousal support.
Spouses can agree to spousal support through a marital settlement agreement. Provided that the terms of the spousal support are not unconscionable (unreasonably unfair to either spouse), the court should approve the spousal support terms as agreed upon by the parties.
Income Tax Liability Issues
When parties divide property and assets, there could be income tax liability issues. Child support and spousal support could also result in income tax problems for one or both spouses.
The spouses may negotiate terms in the agreement that offset income tax liability. Working together, the spouses can determine the best way to resolve their issues without causing future financial hardship for the other spouse.
It is in the spouse’s best interest to negotiate an agreement that benefits both spouses. A spouse that experiences financial hardship may fall behind on support payments, which could result in financial hardship for the receiving spouse.
Payment of Legal Fees and Costs
Spouses often negotiate the payment of legal fees and costs. The spouses may agree to be responsible for their own attorneys’ fees and costs, or one spouse may contribute to the other spouse’s legal fees and costs.
Benefits of Marriage Settlement Agreements for Couples
Marriage settlement agreements are incredibly flexible. There are very few rules governing these agreements. Therefore, spouses can use settlement agreements to develop a parenting plan, property division strategy, and other terms that can put both spouses in the best position possible to enter a new phase of their lives.
Other benefits of marriage settlement agreements include:
Maintain control over issues related to family and finances.
Instead of allowing a judge to make these decisions for them, a couple makes decisions related to themselves and their children. When parties work together to develop an agreement, they are usually more satisfied with the outcome compared to when a judge makes the decision.
Being satisfied with the outcome increases the chance that the parties will obey the terms of the agreement. It also increases the chance that the parties will work together in the future to resolve other issues instead of going back to court.
Lower court costs.
Litigating divorces can be very expensive and time-consuming. Parties often find that negotiating a marital settlement agreement is much less costly than a prolonged court battle.
Reduced stress for all family members.
Fighting a court battle can be stressful, especially for children. It can also result in hard feelings, which can make it more difficult to co-parent. By working with an experienced San Diego divorce attorney, you can develop a plan that allows you to remain civil with your ex.
Contact Our San Diego Marital Settlement Lawyers for More Information
If you have questions, we want to help. Deciding how to proceed with a divorce can be overwhelming. Having experienced legal counsel can make the process less stressful and confusing.
At the Sachdev Legal Group, APC, we represent clients all across San Diego County. We are happy to answer your questions and offer our advice regarding your situation.