Marital Settlement Agreement in California

You and your spouse or partner have worked together, settling the core issues related to your break-up. You are ready to move forward with your divorce. In other words: You've come to a settlement agreement to end your marriage. 

A marital settlement agreement puts your terms in writing. The document is a requirement for the California courts to end your marriage, and you can't move forward without completing it. 

Online templates (like this one) are free to download, and they're relatively simple to fill out. But you need more than an agreement to finish your marriage. You also need to fill out plenty of forms, most of which are attached to your agreement. 

You can use Hello Divorce's free CA Settlement Agreement worksheet. You can also prepare your agreement using our online Marital Settlement Agreement tool to easily build a contract between yourself and your spouse that details your divorce agreement.

Think of your marital settlement agreement as a cover letter for all the divorce forms you will be filling out. Completing this step can be time-consuming, but it's the last one you must take before your divorce is finalized. 

What does the marital separation agreement cover?

A written marital separation agreement is split into sections, each containing important details about your marriage and impending divorce.

Those sections include the following:

  • Statistical facts: Details about who you are, when you were married, how many children you have, and why you're getting divorced go here. 
  • Acknowledgments: You both certify that you've shared information, investigated the details, and understand what you've agreed to. 
  • Custody: If you have children, you explain how you'll handle visits and where the children will live
  • Support: You outline child support, children's expenses, and spousal support in three sections. 
  • Property: You detail who will take community property and how you'll handle debts.
  • Attorneys: If you hired someone to help you, this section explains who will pay them. 
  • Taxes: Divorces can have tax consequences. This section helps you explain how you'll handle those fees. 

Most importantly, a marital agreement contains a space for signatures. Both you and your partner must sign and date this document. 


How do you file an agreement?

At the start of your divorce, one of you headed to a local court, filed paperwork, and paid a fee. You'll go back to this court to file your agreement and finalize your divorce.

Your agreement should be accompanied by forms, such as these:

  • Judgment (FL-180)
  • Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment (FL-341)
  • Child Support Information and Order Attachment (FL-342)
  • Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (FL-343)
  • Property Order Attachment to Judgment (FL-345)
  • Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141
  • Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (FL-130)
  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (FL-170)
  • Spousal or Domestic Partner Support Declaration Attachment (FL-157)
  • Notice of Rights and Responsibilities (FL-192)
  • Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144)

If you're not sure you've completed all the forms you need, use the Judgment Checklist - Dissolution/Legal Separation (FL-182) as a final check. 

This list of associated forms is long, and it can be a little intimidating. If you have questions or need help, visit your court's Self-Help Center to find out more. The staff members can't offer legal advice, but they can help ensure that you've used all the right documents.

How to fill out a marital settlement agreement

Let’s walk through each part of a typical marital settlement agreement and explain how the sections should be filled out.

Introductory provisions

Provide your names and the date of your marriage. Identify your date of separation (per California law, this is the day one of you expressed the desire to end the marriage, and those desires were followed through with actions). Identify the minor children you share by name and their dates of birth.

This section typically includes several checkboxes, allowing parties to certify that they’re participating fully and waive other rights. Read those sections carefully before signing.

Example: Amy and Todd were married on July 1, 2015. Amy e told her husband she wanted a divorce and moved out of the home on July 1, 2023. Their date of separation is July 1, 2023.

Custody and visitation

If you share minor children, this section allows you to explain how they’ll split their time between both parents. Sometimes, people write that information on the form. Sometimes, they attach another document with those details.

Example: Amy and Todd share two children, and they have agreed to shared custody. Amy will have them 183 nights, and Todd will have them 182 nights. The children will alternate major holidays between their parents. They’ll spend one week with one family and alternate on that basis.

Child support

This section only applies to those who share minor children. Several options are available in a typical form. You can cite a prior court order and leave it in place, you can cite an upcoming hearing, or you can outline how payments will be made. You can also discuss things like health insurance for children and other health care expenses.

Example: Amy and Todd split custody equally, so there’s no need for child support. They’ve arranged this via a prior court order, so they can check the box saying they’d like to keep it in place.

Spousal support

This section of the agreement applies to ex-couples with an income disparity. If one party agrees to pay the other, you can outline how much those payments will be and how long they will last.

Example: Amy and Todd have no income discrepancy, and they’ve agreed to waive spousal support. They outline this decision in their agreement.


Use this section of the form to list private property owned separately by both parties. These are items owned before the marriage started, items that came via a gift or inheritance, or items that are otherwise not part of the estate built during the marriage.

Next, identify which items are community property — things owned equally by both people, as they were acquired during the marriage. Identify how those assets will be distributed between both people.

Example: Amy and Todd were married when they were very young, and they have no private property. They certify this in their agreement. They each have a car, which will become private property upon divorce. Amy will keep all of the appliances, and in return, Todd will keep all of the lawn equipment. They identify these assets in the document.

Family home

Use this section to identify where the family home is located and who will live there. If the property won’t be sold right away, identify how long that person will live there until it is. Explain how maintenance expenses will be paid, who will pay the taxes, and who has jurisdiction over the home sale if one party breaks the rules.

Example: Amy and Todd rent property, so they don’t share ownership of a family home. Their lease on the home was terminated during the divorce process, and they both have individual apartments now. They outline these details in the document.

Retirement benefits

Use this section of the document to explain how retirement funds acquired during the marriage will be split in divorce. If you choose not to separate these benefits, you can waive them in this section.

Example: Amy and Todd have roughly equal balances in their retirement accounts. Rather than splitting them, they waive the right to do so.

Legal stipulations

The rest of the marital settlement agreement contains legal provisions regarding how the agreement will be enforced, how it can be modified, what will happen if one party goes bankrupt, and more. The language in these sections can be very dense and difficult to understand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure what you’re agreeing to.

Signatures and dates

Both parties must sign and date this section of the form.

Is a marital settlement agreement legally binding?

A marital settlement agreement in California is legally binding when it’s been approved by a judge as part of a  divorce process. If a judge has signed your judgment and the judgment and notice of entry of judgment have been filed, your divorce is final, and all of your arrangements are officially binding.

If something changes and you no longer agree with the details in your agreement — or you want to change them because you’re unhappy — you need approval to shift things.

If you and your spouse agree on a new plan, you can write up an agreement and submit it to the judge for new orders. If you don’t agree, you can file paperwork and attend a hearing. There, a judge will listen to both sides and decide whether to change the order.

Read all the documents carefully, and make sure you understand what they say and mean. Take your time, and ask for help if you need it. It’s much easier to make changes now than later.

Marital settlement agreement in California FAQ

These are common queries people ask about marital settlement agreements:

Do I have to pay to finalize my divorce?

If you paid fees at the start of your divorce process, you don't need to pay more. 

Do the courts review the marital settlement agreement for fairness?

A judge reads all the documents you file, but that professional rarely pays attention to issues of fairness. You've both agreed to the terms, and you've attested to that fact in writing. A judge will simply ensure that all of your documents are in order before ruling. 

What's the difference between marital and non-marital property?

Marital property (community property) includes goods, buildings, businesses, and other assets you acquired during the marriage as a couple. Non-marital property, or separate property, includes assets that were yours before the marriage or those you acquired independently after things were over.


Marital Settlement Agreement. Judicial Branch of California. 
Write Out the Agreement. Judicial Branch of California. 
Finish Your Divorce When You Have a Written Agreement. Judicial Branch of California.
Example Trial Issue: Date of Separation. Judicial Branch of California.
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