A divorce can be emotionally overwhelming. Probably you wish to spend time figuring out the next step of your life, rather than spending it in and out of court. The good news is that, if you and your ex-spouse reach an agreement on all the aspects of the divorce, you don’t really have to appear for trial in a California court.

An Orange County family law attorney can help you draft a divorce settlement agreement and make sure that your interests and that of your children are safeguarded. And if you fail to agree on a few minor issues, you can try collaborative divorce, arbitration, or mediation and still settle things outside court.

What Out-of-Court Divorce Options Are Available in California?

Whether you agree entirely or partially, the dissolution of a marriage doesn’t have to be messy and lengthy. A divorce, away from the court’s litigation, is much more peaceful, private, and less expensive.

Here are some out-of-court alternatives:

Collaborative Divorce

It involves both attorneys working together with their clients to reach a consensus on the divorce’s few contentious aspects. You will work closely with Santa Ana divorce attorneys trained in both divorce mediation and collaborative law.


The beauty of arbitration is that you get to participate in choosing the arbitrator and enjoy the convenience of deciding on the most appropriate time for the sessions. Additionally, you can agree not to have the witnesses appear in person but submit written evidence, instead.

But the highlight of it all is the privacy of sorting out things.


A mediator is usually a neutral party and can facilitate you and your spouse as you draft an agreement. Remember that the ultimate decision comes from the two of you and not the mediator. Your Orange County divorce attorney can be present or absent during the sessions but can ensure that s/he reviews the settlement agreement before you sign it.

What Factors Need to Be Addressed?

A divorce agreement should be in writing and must be signed by both you and your ex-partner.

It is basically you two mutually agreeing on:

  • Ending the domestic partnership or marriage
  • Visitation orders, custody, and child support, if you had children together
  • Whether either party will pay spousal support
  • How to divide debts and marital property

Can I Change My Divorce Agreement Later?

Circumstances can change significantly after the divorce and create the need to modify part of the agreement. Parties may either do it in court or agree to make the changes among themselves.

Child Support, Visitation, and Custody

You will have to prove that changes in your life situation are significant enough to warrant a modification. Note that, if your ex could not agree with it out-of-court, they will have probably lined up a good defense. So, make sure that you are also working with an experienced family lawyer in Santa Ana to argue out your case effectively.

Spousal Support

Some spousal support cases can be modified, while others cannot. If the court still has modification powers, you can easily seek to change the terms in the future. But similar to child support, you have to prove the significant change in your circumstances.

What Cannot Be Changed in a Divorce Settlement Agreement?

You cannot alter spousal support with a permanent order after the case has been finalized. If you both agreed to end the court’s jurisdiction on the matter after a specific number of years, it would be impossible to alter it later. This explains why one ought to understand all aspects of an agreement before signing it.

Child Support Without Evidence of Change in Circumstances

Without valid evidence to prove that the earlier child support agreement is no longer favorable with your current circumstances, the court cannot alter it. You will need a child support lawyer in Orange County, CA, to first evaluate your case’s strength.

Original Debt and Property Division

It is impossible to change a property and debt division agreement in California. However, if the ex-spouses agree on the modifications, they can use a ‘stipulation and order’ to make binding changes.

What Are the Avenues for Changing My Divorce Terms?

Not all divorces are that easy. Sometimes ex-couples simply cannot come to terms on an agreement.

In California, you can change a divorce agreement in two ways:

An Appeal

You can appeal your divorce agreement’s terms in an appellate or higher court. However, you may be limited from presenting new evidence in the appeal. Also, note that specific provisions in the agreement can restrict your right to appeal.

Stipulation and Order

If you both agree on the changes to the initial divorce agreement, you can put it in writing and submit the document in court. After that, the judge will review and sign it after approval.

Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Not Going to Divorce in Court?

Whether your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s lawyer has already prepared the agreement, or you want to prepare one, it is strongly recommended that you hire an attorney. Agreements use important phrases that can either protect your rights or land you in serious problems.

You can lose your rights if you overlook statements like “waive all future claims” or “exclusive possession.” So, you would rather pay a reasonable legal service fee now than lose more value in the future.

Can I Just Sign the Agreement if I Like My Spouse’s Proposal?

Never sign any document before your attorney reviews it. You cannot trust your spouse’s lawyer to have your interest at heart. Instead, hire your own legal representative even if you agree with the marital settlement agreement concept.

If you agree on issues, but you both don’t have a lawyer, drafting an agreement by yourselves is a bad idea. You will not only miss out on important legal provisions of your state, but you also risk drafting a vague or unclear document.

Personalized Legal Advice

Divorcing outside of court is great but can bear extreme repercussions if you go into it without legal expertise. But if you work with an experienced family lawyer in Orange County, they will be keen to protect your interests at your lowest moments.

You deserve a lawyer’s personalized attention to ensure that you are well represented. Schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney at Sarieh Law Offices Alc. today.