If you are headed for divorce, soon you will be learning all about California marital settlement agreements, or MSAs. An MSA is a document that spells out the terms of a couple’s divorce, and it addresses critical issues, such as child custody and support, spousal support, property and debt division.
If you are thinking about a DIY divorce and using an online service to produce these forms, please note that divorce attorneys do not recommend this approach, especially if you have children or any measurable assets.
Online services generally do not meet the legal guidelines for submitting a judgement to the court, and more often than not, they’re rejected. When you use an experienced lawyer to handle your divorce, your rights are protected and your MSA is properly drafted.
Essentially, the critical issues pertaining to your divorce will be determined in your MSA, and you and your soon-to-be-ex shall be the ones to decide on these issues. Once the MSA is completed, you will both be expected to comply with the term set forth in the document.
The issues commonly address in MSAs:
- Health insurance
- Retirement plans
- A parenting plan (if you have minor children together)
- Child support payments (where applicable)
- Spousal support payments
- How childcare expenses will be paid
- Division of marital property and debts
- What happens to the marital home
- Who pays which debts
- And more
Ideally, the couple, with the help of their respective attorneys, reach a marital settlement agreement that both sides are satisfied with. Once the MSA is completed, the MSA is brought before the family court and incorporated into the final judgement.
If a couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, the judge has to decide for them and in accordance with California’s laws regarding child custody and property division.
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