Although a divorce is an inherently adversarial proceeding where you and the other party are situated on opposing sides of a lawsuit, it is not necessary to have the court adjudicate all aspects of your divorce proceeding. While the court has the jurisdiction and ability to divide your community estate, enter orders for spousal and child support, order custody and timeshare for children of your marriage or partnership, and provide other relief incident to the proceeding and specific to your matter, it need not always do so.
Indeed, you are entitled to settle all, or part, of your case. The matters to which you and the other party agree can be made into a formal document, executed by both you and your spouse or partner, and submitted to the court for its approval and adoption into either an Order or a Final Judgment.
- If you and your partner or spouse agree to a resolution of all matters pertaining to the dissolution, annulment, or legal separation action, you can enter into a Settlement Agreement. This document is a complete and final resolution of your matter.
- The Settlement Agreement must be freely and voluntarily entered into by both parties, and must be submitted to the court for approval. While the ultimate goal is to have the Settlement Agreement incorporated into a Final Judgment, be it for dissolution, annulment, or legal separation, the agreement itself is a contract and is enforceable as a contract until such time as the court does enter a Final Judgment.
- When the Final Judgment is entered, your Settlement Agreement becomes a Court Order, enforceable by contempt proceedings in the event of non-compliance.
- If you and your spouse or partner are able to agree on isolated issues in your matter, you can enter into a stipulation relative to those issues. It is possible to stipulate to a wide array of matters, from the valuation of one item of real or personal property to the use of an expert to an order regarding support and/or custody and timeshare. The stipulation must be submitted to the court with the request that it become an order.