A Marital Settlement Agreement in a divorce or legal separation will allow the parties to mutually agree on the division of community assets, debts, child custody, support and other important matters without ever having a court hearing. Having a Marital Settlement Agreement in even the most simple, uncontested divorce or legal separation proceedings is advantageous for several reasons:
With a Marital Settlement Agreement, the parties can address certain issues with more detail, depth and flexibility than possible in a judgment without a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Judgment can be entered without a court hearing.
The Marital Settlement Agreement becomes the core of the Judgment. This means that the parties get to decide every aspect of their marital issues in their own language rather than having a judge decide these issues.
Final judgment paperwork is usually shorter because all of the issues can be addressed in the agreement rather than the numerous “Attachment-to-Judgment” forms otherwise required in default matters resolved without an agreement.
By choosing to negotiate with each other instead of hiring a lawyer to make “winning” arguments to a judge, parties can usually achieve an agreement that resolves all of the issues of their marriage and that both are happy with. This often helps to avoid post-judgment disagreement.
Sometimes a change of circumstances will trigger the parties to want to change an existing order. If the parties mutually agree, they can modify the existing order by signing and filing a Stipulation and Order with the court, without ever having a formal court hearing. If they do not agree, the party seeking modification of a previous order will need to file a Motion
Another use of a Stipulation or Agreement is to resolve contested issues that the parties have worked out between them – resolving a contested issue that is now “uncontested” or agreed to. For example, one party may have filed a motion to modify custody and visitation. After the filing of the motion, if the parties are able to work out the issues, they can execute a Stipulation and Order signed by both of them and submit it to the court for the judge to make a formal “Order.” With a filed Stipulation and Order, the agreement of the parties becomes a court order and the hearing is taken off calendar.
Stipulations can be filed to resolve a number of issues, if the parties can agree. Some of these issues could be pertaining to: