Corona Marital Settlement Agreements Attorney
Usually, the best and simplest way to resolve a divorce, paternity, legal separation, annulment, post-judgment modification, or other family law matter is by reaching an agreement with the other party. Reaching a settlement as to all the issues is the best way to keep costs low and resolve the case expeditiously. Having a qualified and experienced attorney may be crucial in ensuring that the paperwork contains all the negotiated and necessary terms. A poorly drafted agreement could result in significant problems and costs in the future.
Equally important, the negotiation that leads to the terms of the agreement should be handled by an experienced Corona divorce lawyer. It is difficult for non-experts to understand how the Riverside court will order support, grant custody, divide property, and handle complex divorce issues. We have the experience to understand the likely outcomes of divorce litigation, and we pass on that information to you to strategize to achieve the best negotiated settlement.
Below you will find the types of agreements that may be involved in family law matter.
Marital Settlement Agreement
Marital Settlement Agreements, otherwise known as MSAs, are the documents that encompass the resolution of a divorce or legal separation. These agreements can be short or lengthy depending on the complexity of a case. MSAs typically contain terms that deal with the following:
- Child custody and visitation arrangement between the parties
- Child support amounts
- Spousal support amounts
- Division of community assets and debts
- Disposition of separate property
- Filing of taxes
As MSAs have significant legal implications, it is crucial that these documents are drafted accurately and clearly. Any terms that may be vague or not contained in the MSA must then be dealt with later through the filing of motions and further litigation, something that should have been handled adequately in the MSA.
Important Provisions in a Marital Settlement Agreement
Child Custody and Visitation:
- Legal Custody: Legal custody is the right of a parent to make decisions relating to a child’s health, safety, welfare, religion, and so forth. Generally, unless there is a reason that the court should not order “joint” legal custody that is exactly what is ordered in the vast majority of cases. Parties to a divorce almost always agree to joint legal custody because of the very high likelihood that the court would order that anyway.
- Physical Custody / Parenting Plan: Having specificity as to physical custody and visitation minimizes confusion and further litigation. In most MSAs, a clear description of the terms of regular and holiday visitation is typically included such as the date, time and location of the exchanges. MSAs may also include:
- Step–up Plan: For very young children, a step-up plan is common between parties to keep the stability for the children while facilitating a progressive relationship between the parties and the children. After an event occurs, usually a child becoming older, the visiting parent will get more visitation with the child. Increasing age is commonly the trigger for more visitation for the visiting parent. Having a very specific step-up plan that is agreeable to both parties is very important not only for the parents but for the minor children.
- Right of First Refusal: A common question is “what happens if I’m available to care for our child but it is not my parenting time and I know the other parent is not caring for our children even though it is his/her parenting time?” Having a provision known as the Right of First Refusal has become increasingly common and necessarily to resolve this issue. A Right of First Refusal requires that a parent offer their child to the other parent if the first parent is not available to care for the child during his/her parenting time that may last up to 4 to 6 hours. Please keep in mind that this provision does not apply to parenting time when a parent is working. This provision only applies to instances where a parent is supposed to be spending physical time with a child (on the weekend, for instance) but is unable to due to a business or family trip which would necessitate the care by a caregiver, extended family member or friend. It would only be fair that the other parent has the chance to care for the child instead of an extended family member or friend.
- Vacation: In a settlement agreement, it is typical that there is a provision that a parent provides to the other parent with advanced notice of a vacation trip which would involve the minor children’s involvement. The typical time frame is 45-day advanced notice although it can be reduced to 30 days or other increment based on the parties’ comfort level. The vacationing parent must provide the other parent with an itinerary and contact phone number for emergencies.
- Family Code 3048 Findings: In any family law matter which involves child custody and visitation over minor children, the inclusion of a Family Code 3048 findings provision is necessary to declare that the court has the power or ability to make any kind of orders regarding minor children.
- Jurisdiction: In order for a court to have jurisdiction over minor children, the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) must be satisfied. In short, the minor children must have lived in California for the last 6 months and in a particular county for at least 3 months. Otherwise, the California Court may not make any orders related to those minor children unless an exception applies.
- Notice and Opportunity to be Heard: As in any legal proceeding, both parties must have had the opportunity to have their case heard in front of a judge and the responding party was served with the paperwork. This is to ensure that both parties have been afforded their due process rights.
- Country of Habitual Residence: This provision is to declare that the minor children’s habitual residence is the United States.
- Penalties for Violation of the Order: As with any court order, any violation of the custody orders can result in civil and criminal penalties. This is to ensure that parties understand that they bind themselves to the agreement knowing full well of the potential legal ramifications if they do not comply with the court order.
For more details, visit our FAQs on Corona child custody cases.
When support and maintenance is an issue (also referred to as “alimony”), the MSA or stipulated judgment should contain a detailed section addressing whether spousal support is to be paid, how much is to be paid, and for how long it is to be paid. Further, some parties include language that “terminates” the court’s jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support – after that date the court is forever barred from granting spousal support to either party. Unless the court terminates its jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support, either party may request a modification based on a change of circumstances.
When child support is an issue, the Corona Riverside County Family Court will always order the “guideline” amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other. The guideline calculation considers each party’s income, the time each party spends parenting, certain tax filing factors, deductions such as health insurance and mandatory retirement, among many other factors. Child support is always modifiable until minor children become emancipated.
For more information about child support, click here.
The court may also order the following “add-ons” to child support:
- Unreimbursed medical expenses: The court will always order that each party share equally (or some other fraction if warranted under rare circumstances) all expenses and costs relating to healthcare for minor children, including co-pays, medications, therapy, counseling, orthodontics, etc.
- Extracurricular activities: The court generally does not order parties to share in the cost of extracurricular activities for minor children, although many couples agree to share equally in “agreed upon extracurricular activities”.
- Childcare: The court will always order each party to pay equally (or some other fraction) of the cost of childcare expenses related to either parent’s employment or job training.
Every settlement agreement should discuss tax issues, such as which parent has the right to claim children as dependents, how taxes will be filed (i.e. jointly, separately, etc.), and who is responsible for tax obligations, liens and future obligations.
Parties must take great caution in reaching agreements on the division of community and separate property. The reason is that the agreements are final and cannot be changed, absent some reason to set aside the agreement (like if one party commits fraud, fails to properly disclose assets, etc.) Parties may reach agreements as to any of the following:
- Community property: The Corona family courts are mandated to divide “community property” equally among the parties. Community property is all property that is not separate property acquired during the marriage by either party, no matter how title is taken (in most circumstances).
- Separate property: The courts in Riverside County and Corona are required to assign separate property to the acquiring spouse, to the exclusion of the other party. Separate property is property that is brought into the marriage, property acquired after the parties physically separate and have no desire to continue the marriage finally, or property acquired anytime by gift, bequest, inheritance, or devise.
- Mixed community and separate property: Sometimes the “character” of property is questionable and therefore the court needs to determine what portion of certain assets or debts are community versus separate.
- Family residence: Often, parties facing divorce need to deal with the disposition of the family residence, including whether it will be sold or one party will buy the other out. Our firm has come up with many “outside the box” strategies to accomplish our client’s goals with respect to family homes.
- Retirement assets: The division of 401k, pensions, stock options, IRAs and other retirement assets can be complicated and must be carefully considered in a settlement agreement.
- Bank accounts: Parties usually include stipulations as to how bank and other investment accounts will be divided.
- Personal property: Over the course of a long marriage, parties accumulate lots of “stuff”, which needs to be divided. Some parties include vague division language in their agreements, while others include extremely detailed personal property terms.
- Vehicles: Parties should include terms about which party retains which vehicle, who is responsible for loans and refinancing, how title is to be transferred, and often we include “hold harmless” provisions so that our clients are not responsible for the other party’s use and operation of a vehicle.
For more information about spousal support, child support or custody, property division or other family law and divorce issues in Corona, California, contact us today. We offer a free, private consultation that will give you peace of mind and valuable information for your future.