California Court Discusses Validity of Marital Settlement Agreements

Parties to divorce actions have the right to resolve disputed issues such as child support, spousal support, and property division without a Court’s involvement. Typically, they will memorialize their understanding via a settlement agreement. Such agreements are binding and will typically be upheld by the Court, regardless of whether a party subsequently attempts to challenge the terms of the agreement. This was demonstrated recently when a California Court rejected a wife’s argument that a marital settlement agreement should be set aside. If you or your spouse want a divorce, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced San Diego divorce attorney to help you understand and protect your rights.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 2008. They had three children during their marriage. They separated in September of 2018, and the wife filed a divorce action later that year. The parties then filed preliminary income and expense declarations and disclosures. In August 2020, the parties participated in a voluntary settlement conference during which they were represented by their attorneys. They each had forensic accountants present as well. Following the conference, they developed a marital settlement agreement that resolved issues of spousal support, child support, and property division.

Allegedly, the agreement contained provisions noting that it was binding and subject to enforcement under the California Code of Civil Procedure. It also stated that if either party refused to sign the agreement, the other party could request the Court to issue a judgment based on the terms of the agreement. The wife subsequently refused to sign the agreement. The husband moved to enforce the agreement, and the Court ultimately entered a judgment of dissolution of marriage based on the terms of the agreement. The wife appealed.

Validity of the Marital Settlement Agreement

On appeal, the wife argued that the marital settlement agreement should be set aside and the judgment based on the agreement should be reversed because the parties did not exchange final declarations of disclosure before entering into the agreement. The Court explained, however, that while California law dictates that parties must exchange disclosures and income and expense declarations prior to entering an agreement regarding support, they can waive the right to such disclosure. Further, such disclosures are not required where the parties resolve their issues prior to trial as they did in the subject case. Thus, the Court denied the wife’s appeal.

Meet with a Trusted California Divorce Attorney

Many couples that decide to end their marriage are able to resolve their disputes via a marital settlement agreement, but it is important that they understand the implications of such agreements before entering into them to avoid unintentionally agreeing to unfavorable terms. If you or your spouse want to end your marriage, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss what measures you can take to protect your interests. The trusted San Diego divorce lawyers of Doppelt and Forney APLC understand the importance of obtaining good outcomes in dissolution proceedings, and if you engage our services, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or call us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential conference.

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