Divorce in California generally ends in one of three ways: 1) the couple reconciles and drops the divorce action, 2) the couple agrees on how to divide their assets and share custody (if applicable), or 3) the couple cannot agree on issues such as who gets what and a judge decides for them after a trial. Of these three ways for a divorce to end agreement and trials are the more common. Between these two options it is almost always preferable to try to come to an agreement on issues than have a trial.
The reason agreements are generally preferable is because a trial will generally involve either: 1) the use of assets to fight over assets, or, 2) put stress on children to fight over what is in their best interests. That is, a trial, by its very nature will often contravene the very goal it seeks: assets or the best interests of a child. It is for this reason that county courts strongly encourage settlement in all dissolution and divorce matters. San Francisco County, for example, requires a mandatory settlement conference before a trial will be set in a divorce. At this conference the court will assign a settlement master to appraise the respective parties of the strength and weaknesses of their cases, and, very often will help bridge a gap between the parties to come to an agreement.
Agreements between a couple in a divorce will often take the form of a martial settlement agreement. This is essentially a contract between the parties stating who gets what, and, each sides legal rights. Such agreements are submitted to court and then are approved or returned by the court. The most often reason for return of a martial settlement agreement occurs when the parties either attempt to agree to something that is illegal (for example a parent waiving child support for the life of the child) or if a procedural requirement has not occurred (for example if proof that the necessary disclosures between the parties have not been made).
Whether you are coming to an agreement or preparing for trial the San Francisco based bay area family law Firm of Jones & Devoy LLP can assist you in making sure that your legal rights are protected in your divorce or paternity action.