I asked my attorney to prepare a MSA that my husband and I agreed to. My attorney prepared a Stipulated Judgment. I want to know what the differnce is but I can't ask him because it seems that he has turned on me. He nor his staff will return any of my calls and he does not answer my e-mail. He said in his last e-mail that I should schedule a face to face meeting with him but at $375.00 I don't need a face to face with him. He has actually turned into my nitemare! It's too late to fire him and if I do I would have to pay him $795.00 just to fire him and I would have to start over with another attorney. I don't think I want to do that either because it was almost impossible to get my husband to sign the Stipulated Judgment and I don't want to go through that again.
A marital settlement agreement is a "private" document between the parties. The terms need to be then placed in a Stipulated Judgment in order to be signed by the judge and enforeceable. Your lawyer sounds very odd.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
You should probably meet with your lawyer to review and make sure you understand the provisions of your agreement. Even though you are reluctant to see him again, he is probably the best place to get your questions answered.
In any event, a Marital Settlement Agreement is actually a contract that sets forth the various agreements between you and your former (or soon to be former) spouse. Typically, it contains your agreements about how you are splitting your assets and debts, how you will pay or receive child support and spousal support (if any), and related items such as what reimbursements each of you are making or receiving, etc. It may also include your agreement about how you are sharing parenting responsibilities. It is a stand-alone agreement that can be enforced pursuant to its terms. A Stipulated Judgment typically contains the same agreements. Indeed, it is common in many counties to include a copy of the Marital Settlement Agreement as part of the Judgment. when that is done, or when the terms are all spelled out in a Stipulated Judgment, the agreements become the order of the court and are enforceable by the court through contempt actions or other orders requiring one party or the other to perform as ordered in the agreement.
Many practitioners prefer a Stipulated Judgment when there may be a fairly high likelihood that the court will need to enforce some of the provisions, because many believe that it is easier to enforce a court order than it is to enforce the contract.
Mr. Richardson practices in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and concentrates in non-adversarial dispute resolution as a mediator and collaborative lawyer. The California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization certifies Mr. Richardson as a specialist in California Family Law. He offers no comments or advice with respect to the laws of any state or jurisdiction other than California. The above answer is a general explanation of legal rights and procedures. Mr. Richardson is not your lawyer unless and until you and he have personally met together. This post does not constitute legal advice, and no lawyer client relationship results.
So long as the operative terms of the Stipulated Judgment are the settlement terms that the parties agreed to, your attorney's preparing a Stipulated Judgment reduced the amount of work (and fees) needed to bring the case to a conclusion. Where the parties enter a written Marital Settlement Agreement, some (but not all) counties allow the MSA to be attached to the Judgment form, which, when the Judge signs the Judgment form, the MSA becomes the operative terms of the Judgment. In a county where that is not the policy followed by the Courts, a Judgment needs to be prepared, and if the Judgment is a Stipulated Judgment, it is not necessary to engage in the additional prior step of preparing and entering an MSA. Make peace with your lawyer and save attorney's fees.
Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, as each situation is fact specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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