California Separation Agreement Law

Divorce – Separation Agreements – California

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in California, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: Separation and Property Agreements may be entered into before a divorce is filed to be effective when signed, or may be entered into after the divorce is filed to settle the case of parts thereof.  Those provisions relating to child support are considered separable from the provisions providing for support of the parties and division of property.  Provisions for spousal support provided by written agreement of the parties or orally agreed to in open court are not subject to modification.

Discussion: Agreements are governed by the provisions of the California Family Code.

Statutes:

FAMILY CODE
Division 4 Rights and Obligations During Marriage
Part 5 Marital Agreements
Chapter 1 General Provisions

1500. The property rights of husband and wife prescribed by statute may be altered by a premarital agreement or other marital property agreement.

1501. A minor may make a valid premarital agreement or other marital property agreement if the minor is emancipated or is otherwise capable of contracting marriage.

1502. (a) A premarital agreement or other marital property agreement that is executed and acknowledged or proved in the manner that a grant of real property is required to be executed and acknowledged or proved may be recorded in the office of the recorder of each county in which real property affected by the agreement is situated.
(b) Recording or non-recording of a premarital agreement or other marital property agreement has the same effect as recording or non-recording of a grant of real property.

CHAPTER 3
AGREEMENTS BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE

1620 Except as otherwise provided by law, a husband and wife cannot, by a contract with each other, alter their legal relations, except as to property.

DIVISION 9
SUPPORT
PART 1
DEFINITIONS AND GENERAL PROVISIONS
CHAPTER 3
SUPPORT AGREEMENTS

Article 1.  General Provisions
Subject to this chapter and to Section 3651, a husband and wife may agree, in writing, to an immediate separation, and may provide in the agreement for the support of either of them and of their children during the separation or upon the dissolution of their marriage.  The mutual consent of the parties is sufficient consideration for the agreement.

3585. The provisions of an agreement between the parents for child support shall be deemed to be separate and severable from all other provisions of the agreement relating to property and support of the wife or husband.  An order for child support based on the agreement shall be law-imposed and shall be made under the power of the court to order child support.

3586. If an agreement between the parents combines child support and spousal support without designating the amount to be paid for child support and the amount to be paid for spousal support, the court is not required to make a separate order for child support.

3587. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court has the authority to approve a stipulated agreement by the parents to pay for the support of an adult child or for the continuation of child support after a child attains the age of 18 years and to make a support order to effectuate the agreement.

3590. The provisions of an agreement for support of either party shall be deemed to be separate and severable from the provisions of the agreement relating to property.  An order for support of either party based on the agreement shall be law-imposed and shall be made under the power of the court to order spousal support.

3591. (a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c), the provisions of an agreement for the support of either party are subject to subsequent modification or termination by court order. (b) An agreement may not be modified or terminated as to an amount that accrued before the date of the filing of the notice of motion or order to show cause to modify or  terminate. (c) An agreement for spousal support may not be modified or revoked to the extent that a written agreement, or, if there is no written agreement, an oral agreement entered into in open court between the parties, specifically provides that the spousal support is not  subject to modification or termination.

Case Law:

Marital settlement agreements incorporated into a dissolution judgment are construed under the statutory rules governing the interpretations of contracts generally. (Civ. Code, § 1635 et seq.; In re Marriage of Benjamins(1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 423, 429.  Further, married couples may enter into contracts with each other concerning their property rights as though unmarried, subject to rules controlling actions of persons occupying confidential relations with each other. Haseltine v. Haseltine, 203 Cal.App.2d 48, 21 Cal.Rptr. 238, 244 (1962); In re Estate of Marsh, 151 Cal.App.2d 356, 311 P.2d 596, 599 (1957).

Marital settlement agreements merged into interlocutory judgments become part of a judgment and enforceable by contempt. Flynn v. Flynn(1954) 42 Cal.2d 55 , 58 [265 P.2d 865.


Inside California Separation Agreement Law