When you are able to reach an agreement with your spouse or the parent of your child, the court will need to sign off on it for it to be the court’s order. The agreement is called a stipulation. Stipulations are the fastest and least expensive way to handle family law issues. If you have a court order, but your circumstances changed since the order, you will need an updated stipulation and order if you want to be able to legally enforce the changed agreement. The judge has to review the agreement, confirm you both agree, and then will make it the court’s order.
What happens if we don’t follow the court’s current orders?
Nothing, UNLESS the other parent or spouse disagrees with you not following the orders. Enforcing court orders can mean that the police show up to enforce a visitation exchange. If you have to be taken back to court to enforce the order, you may have to pay the other person’s attorney’s fees and costs, as well as fines. In some situations you may end up spending time in jail for not following the court’s order. When the other party chooses to have the court’s orders enforced, it can be very expensive in time and money for the person not complying with the court’s order.
Please schedule a FREE initial consultation to see how I can help you with agreements and court orders.
What can we do if we agree to change the orders?
You need to make an agreement in writing, in the proper form for the judge to approve and grant as the new order. The most common agreements are:
CHILD CUSTODY/VISITATION/SUPPORT AGREEMENTS
Parents who agree and want to stay in control of what happens with their children are advised to put it in a court ordered writing so there will be no misunderstandings. When the court signs off on the agreement, you have an order that can be enforced if someone decides to break the terms of the agreement. A child custody agreement often includes: who will have the children, when, where, and for how long; the school that will be attended; sporting activities the children can participate in, or not participate in; who has the children on specific holidays, birthdays, vacations; and what to do about emergency medical visits.
Without a court order, there is nothing to enforce. You are both parents and both have obligations to work together in your child’s best interests. But, when one parent disagrees, they can leave and take the child before you can get a court order to stop them. Your only option is to seek an emergency court order that will agree with your position. Prevent the stress, uncertainty and expense by getting your agreement in writing and court ordered, BEFORE disagreements set in.
MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT (MSA)
This is actually a broad term that can apply to many types of agreements between married couples. The one thing these agreements have in common is that all Marital Settlement Agreements occur while the spouses are legally married to each other. Most commonly, a Marital Settlement Agreement (also called an MSA) is a complete agreement between divorcing couples that divides all property, determines all issues regarding the children and spousal support (if any). When a divorcing couple can reach agreement on all issues, their agreement can be filed with the court for the judge’s approval and with the Judgment for dissolution (divorce). Both spouses end up with an enforceable court order to make sure all the terms of the agreement have been followed and can be enforced.
PRE-MARITAL AGREEMENT (Pre-Nup)
As the name implies, a “pre-marital agreement” is agreed to in writing with your fiancé BEFORE you marry. Many people call a pre-marital agreement a “pre-nup.” Pre-marital agreements are especially helpful when one or both of you have real estate holdings, a business or other valuable asset that you want to make sure will always remain in your control. Pre-marital agreements can also include terms about the division of debt which can provide a sense of financial security if one spouse comes to the marriage with a lot of debt that the other spouse doesn’t want to assume.
California law is complicated when it comes to an enforceable pre-marital agreement. It requires a thorough understanding of the law and must be precision crafted to ensure the agreement is binding. I understand the sensitive nature of these negotiations and emphasize protecting the relationship while protecting my client’s interests.
If you and your partner have reached an agreement and you need to have it made “legal” so you can get on with your lives, please contact me to help you make that happen.