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Enforcing divorce settlements in California

Most divorce settlements in California end with the entry of an order by the court that embodies the terms of the settlement agreement and converts the agreement of the parties to a lawful judgment of the court. A question commonly asked by parties to a divorce settlement agreement is what happens if the other party breaches the agreement. The answer depends upon the type of order entered by the court.

If the divorcing parties agree that the divorce settlement agreement is merged into the final judgment of divorce, a motion to enforce any portion of that order is made by a written application to the divorce court. The type of relief depends upon the nature of the breach by the other party. A failure to make a payment of child support or alimony, if proved, will result in an order of the court directing the defaulting party to make the requirement payment upon pain of being found in contempt of court. If the default is the failure to take a required act, or refrain from taking a specified act, the court will enter an order directing the defaulting party to take appropriate action, again upon pain of being held in contempt of court.

If the divorce agreement is not incorporated into the divorce judgment, the settlement agreement is treated like a civil contract, and a breach of the agreement will be treated like a civil breach of contract. In such an event, the aggrieved party must file a motion with the court seeking an order enforcing the terms of the agreement. If the violation or omission is proved, the court can order any relief that it deems justified by the facts.

Enforcing a divorce agreement can be especially complex if large amounts of money or sizable assets are involved. Anyone who believes that a divorce settlement agreement has been violated by the other party may wish to consult an divorce attorney for advice on possible remedies, the procedures required to bring the matter before the court, and the likelihood of obtaining a fair outcome.

Source:, "Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement in California," accessed on May 8, 2017

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