When going through a divorce or legal separation in California, the spouses’ best option is usually to attempt to reach an agreement involving the division of their assets and property and any ongoing spousal and child support. Reaching an agreement will reduce the uncertainty and expense of having the court determine which party will receive what property and under what circumstances, and ideally will prevent any unnecessary stress and tension between the parties, especially when children are involved. Even where couples reach an agreement outside of the courts, it is crucial that all parties understand their rights under California law to make sure that the agreement is fair and that the parties conducted themselves properly. A settlement agreement must therefore be submitted to the court, and a judge will not sign off on an agreement if it appears to be unfair to either party. At the Law Offices of Andy Cook, a San Diego Settlement Agreement Lawyer can help couples can reach fair and equitable settlement agreements, while ensuring that the rights and interests of our clients are preserved and protected now and into the future.
Requirements for an Effective Settlement Agreement in California
When two spouses seeking a divorce or legal separation work together to reach an agreement on their own, this is called an uncontested case. While reaching an agreement is usually preferable than the cost and stress of going to court and asking the judge to determine the unresolved matters in a divorce, there is still much that needs to be worked out in a settlement agreement, including:
- Who will take possession of real estate, including the family home
- Whether the spouse taking possession of real estate may owe the other spouse money for contributions made to the cost, improvement or upkeep of the real estate
- How property will be divided among the spouses, including vehicles, furniture, jewelry, family heirlooms, electronics, etc.
- How savings accounts and investments will be divided, including stocks, mutual funds, IRAs, etc.
- How retirement benefits will be divided, including pension plans, a 401k, etc.
- How debt will be divided among the parties, including mortgages, student loan debt, credit card debt, auto loan debt, etc.
- How interests and debts in a business operated by one or both of the spouses will be divided
- Whether and how much spousal support and/or child support will be paid, by what party, and for how long
- Who will have physical custody of the children, including whether the custody will be shared jointly or whether one party will have sole or primary custody
- Who will have visitation rights for the children and under what circumstances (e.g. supervised visitation)
- Who will have legal custody of the children, meaning how will the spouses determine important decisions about the children, including decisions about the children’s education and health care
These are just some of the concerns that will need to be addressed by a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement reached by the parties will only be effective if it is signed off by a California state judge. The judge will look at the agreement to determine whether it is fair in light of what the California family law would provide to all the parties involved had the court made the relevant decisions. The court may also examine the process by which the parties reached the settlement agreement to ensure that the parties were transparent and forthcoming with financial and related information as required by California law. Therefore it is important that the parties working towards a settlement agreement be advised of their rights under California law to assure that both parties are negotiating in a good faith manner.
Seek Legal Representation from a San Diego Settlement Agreement Lawyer
Given the vast complexities of the California law in dividing property and assets and awarding spousal and child support, and the wide discretion of the trial judge in determining whether a settlement agreement is fair, it is essential to be well-represented by experienced family law attorneys who can help negotiate and prepare a settlement agreement that represents your interests. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Andy Cook possess the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to provide you with the representation you need in this critical area.