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What is the difference between a Stipulated Judgment and a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Palo Alto, CA |
Filed under: Divorce

Also, I was able to find the Stipulated Judgment form online (form FL-180 plus pertinent attachments). However, I cannot find a California Marital Settlement Agreement online, or even any instructions on how to write one. Where would I find this information?

Attorney Answers 2


A stipulated judgment is a judgment – the order of the court regarding the rights and liabilities of the parties to litigation, entered in the court’s records and enforceable as a judgment. A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is a contract. It is the agreement between the parties and is not enforceable as a judgment unless and until the court enters it as the judgment in your matter. There is no “form” MSA. You can certainly draft one yourself, but if there is even a slightly tricky issue you should have an attorney at least look it over for you. It needs appropriate language with regard to children, no matter what your agreement is with respect to support.

As for finding some help with writing one, there are divorce self-help books available, written for the lay person. You can also avail yourself of the law library and look at books written for attorneys.

Best of luck to you.

This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not create a right to continuing email exchanges.

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You may be able to find third-party document preparers that might have a MSA available to use as a form - but as attorney Main noted, the MSA is a creature of contract rather than one of the court and then can be sticky.

One thing I would like to point out is both the Stipulated Judgment and the MSA are built off the agreement of the parties - one has just already been vetted by the court and failure to adhere to the terms of the agreement may constitute contempt of court. The MSA would need to be tested in a court to determine its enforceability - which is why consulting an attorney when putting it together is important.

That said, as attorneys, we tend to like third-party document preparers because many of the things that we later have to "fix" are a result of someone getting the wrong form from a self help service - they are not allowed to provide you with legal advice.

Good luck - hope that helps.

THESE COMMENTS MUST NOT BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE. Comments made on websites such as are provided for information purposes only. The only way to determine how the law may apply to your particular situation is to consult with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Answering this question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation.

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