The Final Step of Divorce

Going through a divorce is often a complicated and draining process, especially as courts get involved. Sometimes the part that seems easiest is actually the hardest: deciding on the terms of the settlement and finalizing your divorce. You may feel a mix of emotions as you and your ex-spouse discuss things such as child support or alimony. A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), or divorce agreement, can help make the process less overwhelming. An MSA is a legally-binding, written contract, entered into by divorcing spouses, and is usually the final step of divorce.

Create your own court order

Reaching an agreement in your divorce can save you money and time, but an oral agreement can be a problem down the road. A written marital settlement agreement can circumnavigate those problems. Instead of relying on a judge for final orders, couples can create their own divorce agreement. These agreements lay out the terms for child custody, child support, alimony (or spousal support), and property division.

Each part of an MSA should be carefully written, leaving as little as possible to interpretation. Remember, circumstances can change down the road such as when one party remarries. If a dispute arises over a section of the agreement, like visitation rights, your ex-spouse might use unclear wording as leverage, arguing that it now means something different than what you both originally intended. This opens the door to legal battles, which cost time and money, and may be protracted and ugly. Having an attorney write or review the MSA can significantly increase the possibility that there will be no ambiguities down the road.

A written MSA can also provide for specific sanctions when a spouse violates (“breaches”) the agreement’s provisions – consequences that might not be standard under state law for enforcing the divorce judgment, such as paying the other spouse’s attorney’s fees.

In the state of California, here are the general steps to finalizing your divorce, whether or not you have a default, agreement, or have had a trial:

  •  Turn in the required judicial council forms
  •  Submit your written Marital Settlement Agreement
  • The court will review these forms for mistakes or errors
  • A judge will sign the final form (the judgment) and state the exact day your marriage or domestic partnership officially ends

Getting the help you need

Spouses can draw up their own marital settlement agreement when finalizing a divorce, but most people don’t understand the legal implications of what they agree to, nor are they aware of other helpful provisions that could be included. An experienced attorney understands the legal rights and responsibilities as they relate to the custody and support of your children, alimony and property. An attorney drafted Marital Settlement Agreement typically is a stronger more comprehensive legal document that includes the language the Judge wants to see in your documents.

At Green Giraffe Legal Services, we offer an innovative flat fee divorce option that gives you control over your divorce costs and your financial future. We can get you the divorce judgment you deserve.