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Marital Settlement Agreements (MSA)

A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) defines the terms of the divorce, legal separation or annulment. Once the agreement is agreed to and executed by both parties, the MSA is filed as part of the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (aka divorce), legal separation, or annulment. In a nut shell, the parties decide the terms of their divorce instead of a judge.

The most common issues stated in a MSA are:

  • Child custody/ Visitation/ Timeshare and Support

  • Spousal support

  • Division of assets and debts

Other issues that may be included in a MSA are:

  • Attorney and expert’s fees

  • Tax provisions

  • What happens if there is reconciliation

  • Warranties, Breach and Remedies

  • Waiver of rights to deceased spouse’s estates

  • Modification of terms

  • Effective date

Advantages of a MSA incorporated into a final divorce judgement are:

  • Fair and equitable agreed upon judgment

  • Reduced court involvement

  • It is a legally binding, valid enforceable Agreement

  • Saves litigation time and money

  • Reduced attorney's fees

Some common issues that are not enforceable through a MSA are:

  • Child support – child support cannot be waived.

  • Child custody – The court has jurisdiction over minor children.

  • Religious upbringing of children – the court won’t enforce any terms of religious upbringing of minor children.

  • Damages – California court will not enforce paying of “damages” from one spouse to another.

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